Executed 14-Year-Old Cleared After 70 Years

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Photo: South Carolina Department of Archives and History

George Stinney Jr. was vindicated Wednesday, 70 years after he was put to death for killing two little girls. He weighed just 95 pounds when he was electrocuted atop a book — placed in his execution chair to compensate for his short stature — in 1944.

The black 14-year-old was accused of killing two white girls in Alcolu, South Carolina. Prosecutors said he admitted to killing the two, 8 and 11, using a railroad spike. In a trial by a jury of his peers, 12 white male jurors deliberated for ten minutes before finding the teenager guilty. The trial itself took less than a day, and he was killed three months later, leaving his family afraid of speaking out about his innocence.

George’s conviction and execution was something my family believed could happen to any of us in the family,” Stinney’s brother, Charles, said in a statement, showing just how tense race relations were in the 1940s. “Therefore, we made a decision for the safety of the family to leave it be.”

But 70 years later, he has been exonerated, with a judge deciding that his 1944 confession was coerced. Stinney’s niece told the local Manning Times that the family didn’t want a pardon, since they believe he had done nothing wrong. Instead, they sought — and got — a “writ of coram nobis,” or an acknowledgment of a major error, granted by Circuit Court Judge Carmen Mullen.