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South Carolina Judge Exonerates 14-year-old Executed for Murder in 1944


Exonerations are not unusual in South Carolina's justice system but they are when the punishment was carried out as long as 70 years ago.

In a sad case that highlights the brutal nature of the system during World War Two, a South Carolinian who was executed at age 14 in 1944 has been exonerated after a judge vacated his murder conviction this month.

Latin Post reported on how George Stinney Jr. is believed to have been the youngest person put to death in the United States during the 20th century.

A report on NBC News said the black teenager was convicted of using a railroad spike to beat to death two young white girls, ages 8 and 11, in Alcolu, South Carolina. Officials said he confessed to the killings, and a jury of 12 white men took a mere 10 minutes to find him guilty.

Stinney was executed within three months of the killing. Reports at the time said he weighed just 95 pounds and had to sit on a phone book in the electric chair.

Stinney had an alibi but it appeared to make little difference. His sister said she was with him on the day of the killings, and her brother could not have killed the girls.

The case was taken up by civil rights advocates who have spent years trying to get the case reopened, arguing that the boy's14-year-old's confession was coerced.

An appeal of Stinney's conviction which was brought by his two surviving siblings, succeeded on December 17 when Circuit Judge Carmen Mullen rejected the verdict, writing that the speed in which the state processed the case against Stinney through the justice system was shocking and extremely unfair. "I can think of no greater injustice," the judge said.

The appeal was based on the shortness of the trial as well as the lack of a transcript of the proceedings. "The only apparent evidence against Stinney was a confession a white police officer obtained without any parent or guardian present. At the time of the crime, 14 was the legal age of criminal responsibility in South Carolina," the Latin Post report stated.

NBC reported that the sister of the 14-year-old is ecstatic that a judge has finally tossed out his murder conviction but is still haunted by the injustice that sent him to his death.

"It was like a cloud just moved away," said Stinney's sister, Katherine.

Miscarriages of justice still occur in South Carolina's legal system, although they are not of quite such a blatant nature as the case of George Stinney. If you are charged with the most serious of violent crimes in Columbia, SC, it's important to hire an experienced criminal defense attorney. Call Masella Law at 803.938.4952.

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