Anorak | The trial and execution of 14-year-old George Stinney

The trial and execution of 14-year-old George Stinney

by | 18th, December 2014



George Stinney was 14 when he was executed in the electric chair. An all-white jury had found him guilty of killing two white girls, Betty June Binnicker, 11, and Mary Emma Thames, 8, in the spring of 1944. George Stinney was black.

The victims and Stinney lived in the segregated mill town of Alcolu, South Carolina.


In this Dec. 5, 1939 file photo, President Franklin Roosevelt, left, talks to South Carolina Governor Olin Johnston at a breakfast in the mansion at Columbia, S.C. Leaving a judge to decide whether to throw out the conviction of 14-year-old George Stinney, who was executed in South Carolina in 1944, reminds his supporters of how the teen's fate was also in Johnston's hands nearly 70 years ago. Stinney's conviction is being challenged by a lawsuit filed by supporters asking for a new trial, a move unprecedented in South Carolina for someone already put to death. A hearing has been scheduled for Jan. 21, 2014. (AP File Photo)



The jury took three hours to find him guilty.

He had been removed from all family and friends and kept in prison. The authoriteis said he had confessed.

He was questioned in a small room, alone – without his parents, without an attorney. (Gideon v. Wainwright , the landmark Supreme Court case guaranteeing the right to counsel, wouldn’t be decided until 1963.) Police claimed the boy confessed to killing Betty June Binnicker, 11, and Mary Emma Thames, 8, admitting he wanted to have sex with Betty. They rushed him to trial. After a few hours of testimony and 10 minutes of deliberation, he was convicted of murder and sentenced to die by electrocution “until your body be dead in accordance with law. And may God have mercy on your soul,” court documents said. His court-appointed attorney never sought an appeal.

(The US abolished executions of children under 18 in 2005.)


George Stinney's second cousin Irene Lawson-Hill, center, tells a crowd her family won't stop fighting, at a rally to call for justice for George Stinney on Tuesday, Dec. 10, 2013, in Manning, S.C. Stinney was 14 in 1944 when South Carolina executed him for killing two white girls. Supporters say there is no evidence against Stinney. (AP Photo/Jeffrey Collins)


But he wasn’t guilty beyond reasonable doubt.

James Gamble, whose father was the sheriff at the time, told the Herald in 2003 he was in the back seat with Stinney when his father drove the boy to prison.

“There wasn’t ever any doubt about him being guilty,” he said . “He was real talkative about it. He said, ‘I’m real sorry. I didn’t want to kill them girls.’

Indeed, just 84 days after the girls’ deaths, Stinney was sent to the electric chair. Today, an appeal from a death sentence is all but automatic, and years, even decades, pass before an execution, which provides at least some time for new evidence to emerge.


Betty June Binnicker


Attempts to overturn the conviction have met with resistance among Alcolu’s white community. Sadie Duke told the local paper in January 2014 that the day before the murders, George had told her and a friend: “If you don’t get away from here and if you ever come back, I will kill you.” Another local, who was 15 at the time, said George was known as a bully.

Asked whether she recognised this version of her brother, Aime says: “The only white kids that came in our area was those kids. We had our own black school and church.

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Posted: 18th, December 2014 | In: News Comment | Follow the Comments on our RSS feed: RSS 2.0 | TrackBack | Permalink