South Carolina Judge Vacates Murder Charges Against Black Teen Executed 70 Years Ago For Killing Two White Girls
This is beyond bittersweet. An innocent black teen, only 14-years-old was executed in 1944… 70 years later, textile inspector and school board member George Frierson gathered up old newspaper articles and other evidence and made it his mission to see that George Stinney got another day in court. Matt Burgess, the attorney whose firm argued for a new trial helped bring the case in front of Judge Carmen Mullen, who ultimately vacated the charges against Stinney.
George Stinney was arrested, convicted of murder in a one-day trial and executed in 1944 — all in the span of about three months and without an appeal. The speed in which the state meted out justice against the youngest person executed in the United States in the 20th century was shocking and extremely unfair, Circuit Judge Carmen Mullen wrote in her ruling Wednesday.
“I can think of no greater injustice,” Mullen wrote.
The two girls, ages 7 and 11, had been beaten badly in the head with an iron railroad spike in the town of Alcolu in Clarendon County, about 45 miles southeast of Columbia, authorities said. A search by dozens of people found their bodies several hours later.
Investigators arrested Stinney, saying witnesses saw him with the girls as they picked flowers. He was kept away from his parents after his arrest, and authorities later said he confessed.
His supporters said he was a small, frail boy so scared that he said whatever he thought would make the authorities happy. They said there was no physical evidence linking him to the deaths. His executioners noted the electric chair straps didn’t fit him, and an electrode was too big for his leg.
During a two-day hearing in January, Mullen heard testimony from Stinney’s surviving brother and sisters, someone involved in the search and experts who questioned the autopsy findings and Stinney’s confession. Most of the evidence from the original trial was gone and almost all the witnesses were dead.
It took Mullen nearly four times as long to issue her ruling as it took in 1944 to go from arrest to execution.
So sad. And how many other cases like George Stinney’s are there in American history? How many innocent black boys and men have died because of our crooked justice system?
Let’s make it our mission not to forget George Stinney.
South Carolina Department Of Archives