One June 16th, 1944, the United States executed a 14 year old boy. His name was George Junius Stinney Jr.

There is good reason to believe Stinney’s confession was coerced, and that his execution was just another injustice blacks suffered in Southern courtrooms in the first half of the 1900s.

More from SC crusaders look to right Jim Crow justice wrongs, by Jeffrey Collins for The Associated Press (Jan. 18, 2010)

The sheriff at the time said Stinney admitted to the killings, but there is only his word — no written record of the confession has been found. A lawyer with the case figures threats of mob violence and not being able to see his parents rattled the seventh-grader.

Attorney Steve McKenzie said he has even heard one account that says detectives offered the boy ice cream once they were done.

“You’ve got to know he was going to say whatever they wanted him to say,” McKenzie said.

The court appointed Stinney an attorney — a tax commissioner preparing for a Statehouse run. In all, the trial — from jury selection to a sentence of death — lasted one day. Records indicate 1,000 people crammed the courthouse. Blacks weren’t allowed inside.

The defense called no witnesses and never filed an appeal. No one challenged the sheriff’s recollection of the confession.

“As an attorney, it just kind of haunted me, just the way the judicial system worked to this boy’s disadvantage or disfavor. It did not protect him,” said McKenzie, who is preparing court papers to ask a judge to reopen the case.

Stinney’s official court record contains less than two dozen pages, several of them arrest warrants. There is no transcript of the trial.

RESOURCES

Sound Portrait: George Stinney, Youngest Executed (2004)

When Killing a Juvenile was Routine

Too Young To Die: The Execution of George Stinney Jr. (1944) in Ch. 5, ‘South Carolina Killers: Crimes of Passion’, by Mark R. Jones.

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