More than 70 years after the execution of the murderer of two white #Children, a South Carolina judge overturned this week, the conviction that led George Stinney, a teenage black American, to the electric chair in 1944. He was the youngest person executed in the United States in the 20th century.
In a decision announced past Wednesday, Judge Carmen Mullen described the case of Stinney as "a truly unfortunate episode" and justified the judgment of annulment with the "violation of the defendant's rights spotted by the prosecution", and did not give him any chance of defence.
Accused of killing Betty June Binnicker, 11 years old, and Mary Emma Thames, seven, both found dead in March 1944, with the skulls broken, in the area inhabited by black people of Alcolu, Stinney was tried, convicted and executed within 83 days .
The teenager family has always understood that George Stinney was forced to confess to the crime and that was the scapegoat for a thirsty community of revenge for the violent death of two girls. Over the years, they fuelled a legal battle that now knew the outcome.
Citing the testimony of a psychiatrist, Judge Mullen considered "highly likely" that the defendant has been coerced to confess the crimes due to unbalanced power relationship between a black boy of 14 years and the whites of the law representatives in a small town of secreted South Carolina. "the confession cannot be considered voluntary, given the facts, circumstances, the defendant's age and suggestibility" she said.
Without the presence of counsel or parents, confession was considered as a violation of George Stinney rights. The boy was tried in three hours and the jury of 12 white men, took just ten minutes to decide to put him to death. Days later, he was sitting in the electric chair, inadequate for a body with less than 50 kg.
A man who shared a cell with Stinney, said before the trial, that the boy, "small and fragile," affirmed that he did not kill the girls and they had told him to confess to the crime.
"Based on the facts presented to this court, law enforcement methods in the defendant's interrogation may have been unduly suggestive, not compatible with the rules of criminal procedure, as required by the first and fourteenth amendment" to the Constitution, he said.
The judge also criticised the lawyer appointed to defend George, Charles Plowde. Stated that he "did little or nothing to defend Stinney", did not asked for a change of venue for the trial or time to prepare defences, put only "questions of detail or even put questions at all" to the prosecution witnesses and presented no witnesses in favour of Stinney. The lawyer was also criticised for not presented "appeal or stay of execution."