George Stinney

George Stinney
George Stinney
George Stinney Case Files Department of Corrections. Central Correctional Institution. Record of prisoners awaiting execution.-S132004, File #260 / Photo courtesy of the South Carolina Department of Archives and History

George Stinney Jr. was only 14 years old when he was executed by electrocution on June 16, 1944, for the murder of two white girls, in Alcolu, South Carolina.

George’s spurious case has understandably tormented civil rights advocates for years. George was questioned in a small room, all alone—without his parents, without an attorney. Police claimed the boy confessed to killing the two girls, also admitting he wanted to have sex with the 11-year-old.

The sheriff’s claims that George confessed to the murders was never supported by evidence such as a written or signed statement. George's father was fired from his job and his family forced to flee amidst threats on their lives. On March 26, 1944, a mob attempted to lynch young George, but he had already been moved to an out-of-town jail.

The state rushed George through a sham trial. At his trial, George was represented by a tax attorney that had never argued a criminal case and failed to call a single witness. The trial lasted less than three hours and the deliberations of the all-white jury took 10 minutes. No African Americans were allowed inside the courthouse.

George’s bogus trial, the evidence—rather the lack thereof—and the speed with which he was convicted perfectly illustrate how a young Black boy was railroaded by an all-white so-called “justice” system.

On June 16, 1944, George Stinney Jr. was executed, thereby becoming the youngest person in modern times to be put to death. He was so small he did not fit into the electric chair. They had to sit him on several books, but his tiny head didn't fit the electric shock helmet, which kept slipping off and revealing the terrified, twisted, and tear stained face of a little child.

George’s former cellmate Wilford Hunter issued a statement saying the little boy vehemently denied the charges. “I didn’t - didn’t do it!” George innocently asked him, “Why would they kill me for something I didn’t do?”

His siblings (now aged in their 70s and above) all provided him with an alibi during depositions for the 2014 motion to vacate George’s conviction, saying that he had been at home during the time the murders took place and therefore could not have committed them.

In 2014, George’s conviction was vacated by a Circuit Court Judge, who noted that George had not received a fair trial and his sixth amendment constitutional rights had been violated. Seventy years after he was put to death, little George Stinney Jr. was legally exonerated. Justice delayed is justice denied.