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he story of George Junis Stinney Jr. has been lost throughout history and overshadowed by World War 2. This 14-year-old boy was sentenced to death on the 16th of June 1944 for the murder of two white girls, ages 7 and 11. His sentence is even to this day seen as unfair for a 14-year-old, especially being executed on electric chair power by an old generator that took about 8 minutes to actually kill him and not the prescribed 2-second death. There is no evidence but some historians say that an officer shot him in the head after a few minutes to end his suffering
An unfortunate event
George was born on October 21st, 1929 in the humble hometown of Alcolu, South Carolina. Even if he was mostly surrounded by white people, he always tried to make friends and be respectful to others (the words of his parents seemed humble). However, on one dark day, on the 24th of March, 1944 the bodies of two young girls by the name of Betty Binniker aged 11 and Mary Thames aged 7 were found with their skulls cracked open.
The two girls were reported missing a day prior to the discovery of their bodies in South Carolina. The investigators reported that they found a crowbar in a pound that could have been used as a potential weapon to commit the crime. Unfortunately, when the investigation was going on, George happened to be around with his older brother Johnny. As the cops had no suspects, they decided to take both boys in for interrogation without informing their parents.
Cops and the misuse of power
The police officer who arrested the two was H.S. Newman, a county deputy who stated that he arrested George Stinney and Johnny Stinney. Johnny Stinney was left to go, but George Stinney apparently confessed as he told Newman where he threw the crowbar used for the murder of the two girls.
What actually happened in this story was the misuse of power by white police officers, just as it’s happening today. In 2012 a group of lawyers and activists that wanted to get to the bottom of this case started to investigate in order to find the truth. It had been discovered that the police officer who interrogated him had starved him and hadn’t allowed him to go to the bathroom. Then he bribed him that he will offer the boy food in exchange for a confession.
During his confinement and trial, George was not allowed to see or talk to his parents which, due to Geroge’s arrest were left jobless and forced to vacate their company housing. The family was forced to hide as many supremacists were after them. In his interrogation, George has always questioned alone, something illegal as a minor under interrogation had to be accompanied by a parent or a guardian. Supposedly, the interrogation resulted in a signed confession to the murders, something not found to this day.
The entire trial was “planned” beforehand, as it was typical at the time, the jury was made up of only white people. This is because, at the time, African-Americans were still prohibited to be jurors. What is even more imperative is that black people were not allowed to attend the trial, instead, the courtroom was filled with 1000 white people. The three officers who testified that George confessed were not even challenged by the judge, nor the prosecutors.
In the prosecution, there were two different versions of the story presented. Once in which George was attacked by the girls whilst trying to help a girl get up, so in self-defense he murdered them. The second version was that he followed the girls and planned to murder them. Again, there is and most probably was no evidence of a written statement of George confessing to any of these stories.
In less than 10 minutes, the jury decided on a guilty verdict and a sentence to death by an electric chair. Stinney’s family, other black communities as well as some churches have appealed to Governor Johnston for clemency, due to the young age of the boy, even if they never would have accepted that the boy did actually murder the two girls.
What is even more disgusting is that Governor Olin D. Johnston appealed to clemency with a public response in which he stated that after killing the two girls, George attempted to rape the dead bodies. Such statements are crossing the line as no one would believe a 14-year-old capable of such actions.
The Execution (torture)
George’s execution was planned to take place at the Central Correctional Institution in Columbia, South Carolina on June 16th, 1944 between 7:25 p.m. and 7:30 p.m. Such an execution had never been performed at that institution, therefore, a special chair had been brought all the way from Pennsylvania which would be charged by an old generator that had proven to not be capable of such an execution.
The boy was brought to the execution chamber and a bible was used to boost his seat as he was only 14 years of age, the chair was never designed for children. His parents were allowed to enter the chamber and say their final words to their son before the execution took place. As the execution officers began to strap George to the chair, he broke into tears, therefore they placed a bag over his face.
Once the shock was applied, he did not die instantly as the execution was supposed to take place, but after 8 long torturing minutes of being electrified. The current was so powerful that it had burned the bag over his face, revealing his burned face. It is said that at that point one of the officers pulled out their gun and shot him in the head to spare him any more suffering.
The case had been re-investigated in 2014 to come to the conclusion that the trial was unfair and that most likely, George was not the murderer of the two girls as no actual evidence proving such actions was shown in court. At the same time, this is an example of misconducting the usage of power given to federal officers and to those that have the law in hand.
What we see today is sadly history repeating itself. Those who do not learn from history are condemned to repeat it. We all need to take a look back at how racism has affected our world and come to the conclusion that this only separates us as humans.