a south carolina judge on wednesday vacated the 1944 conviction of a 14 year-old black teenager. judge carmen tevis mullen said the boy, george stinney, jr., did not receive a fair trial in the murders of two white girls.
stinney was convicted by an all-white jury after a one-day trial and a ten-minute jury deliberation. he died in the electric chair less than 90 days after the killings of betty june binnicker, 11, and mary emma thames, 7. stinney was the youngest person executed in america in the past century.
judge mullen said she was not overturning the case on its merits, although scant records made the case almost impossible to relitigate. the judge said few or no defense witnesses testified and it was "highly likely," the boy's confession to white police officers - amidst prevailing racial segregation - was coerced.
"from time to time we are called to look back to examine our still-recent history and correct injustice where possible. i can think of no greater injustice than a violation of one's constitutional rights, which has been proven to me in this case by a preponderance of the evidence standard," judge mullen wrote.
the girls disappeared on march 23, 1944, after leaving home in the small mill town of alcolu on their bicycles to look for wildflowers. they were found the next morning in a ditch with their skulls crushed. stinney was taken into custody the same day and confessed within hours, according to the ruling.
last year, members of stinney's family petitioned for a new trial. his sister, anne ruffner, 77, testified in a january hearing: her brother could not have killed the girls because he was with her that day. citing the lack of a transcript from the original trial, no surviving physical evidence and only a handful of official documents, judge mullen firmly overturned the conviction.
ruffner, and two other siblings - both were run out of town shortly after stinney's arrest - were pleased with the judge's ruling, said the family attorney matthew burgess. "this is something that's been weighing on them for seven decades now. they are happy to hear that their brother has been exonerated," burgess said.
- mark j. tuggle
- harlem, usa
- same-gender-loving contemporary descendant of enslaved africans. community activist, feminist, health educator, independent filmmaker, mentor, playwright, poet & spiritual being. featured at, in & on africana.com, afrikan poetry theatre, angel herald, bejata dot com, bet tonight with tavis smiley, blacklight online, black noir, brooklyn moon cafe, gmhc's barbershop, klmo-fm, lgbt community services center, longmoor productions, nuyorican poets cafe, our corner, poz, pulse, rolling out new york, rush arts gallery, saint veronica's church, schomburg center for research in black culture, sexplorations, the citizen, the new york times, the soundz bar, the trenton times, the village voice, upn news, uzuri, venus, vibe, wbai-fm, wnyc-fm & wqht-fm. volunteered with adodi, bailey house, inc., black men's xchange-new york, colorofchange.org, drug policy alliance, east harlem tutorial program, imagenation film & music festival, presente.org, save darfur coalition, the enough project, the osborne association, the sledge group & your black world. worked on films with maurice jamal & heather murphy. writing student of phil bertelsen & ed bullins. firstname.lastname@example.org.