Tag Archives: Death penalty

SC Electrocutes George Stinney Jr

SC Electrocutes George Stinney Jr

June 16, 1944

When deep racial hatred blinds a community, there will be miscarriages of justice.  In the United States, such false accusations have happened regularly with black people young and old.

SC Electrocutes George Stinney Jr

George Junius Stinney , Jr

The story of George Junius Stinney, Jr is another tragic example of that ignorant hatred.

14-year-old  George Stinney, Jr. lived in Alcolu,  South Carolina with his father, George Stinney, Sr., mother Aime, brothers Charles, 12, and John, 17, and sisters Katherine, 10, and Aime, 7. George Sr. worked at the town’s sawmill. The family lived in company housing.

March 23, 1944

SC Electrocutes George Stinney Jr

On the afternoon of March 23, 1944, Betty June Binnicker, 11, and Mary Emma Thames, 7, failed to return home. The next morning searchers, George Stinney, Sr among them, discovered the girls’ bodies lying in a water-filled ditch. Both girls’ skulls were crushed and one of the girl’s bicycles lay on top of their bodies.

After a short investigation, police took George Stinney, Jr, and his brother John into custody. They released John, but a few hours later, Stinney confessed to murdering the girls.

The sawmill fired Stinney, Sr and the family had to move and rarely saw George, Jr again because his incarceration was 50 miles away.

SC Electrocutes George Stinney Jr

April 24, 1944

A mere 10 days later, the State tried Stinney for the  girls’ murders. Records indicate 1,000 people crammed the courthouse. Blacks were not allowed inside.

The jury was all-white and the trial concluded that same day with Judge P.H. Stoll presiding. The court had appointed Charles Plowden as Stinney’s counsel. Plowden was a tax commissioner campaigning for a Statehouse seat.

Solicitor Frank McLeod represented the State. He presented evidence from law enforcement that Spinney confessed to the crime. While law enforcement testified that a confession occurred, no written confession exists in the record today. Nothing remains from documentary evidence indicating whether the court admitted a murder weapon, bloody clothes or other demonstrative evidence.

Plowden called no witnesses, did not cross examine, and never filed an appeal. No one challenged the sheriff’s recollection of the confession.

The jury deliberated 10 minutes and found Stinney guilty.

The same day Judge P.H. Stoll sentenced Stinney to death by electrocution.

The entire process had lasted two-hours.

No appeals were filed and no stays of execution requested.

SC Electrocutes George Stinney Jr

Last minute protest

The day before the scheduled execution, the NAACP protested to Governor Olin D Johnston. The execution proceeded.

George Stinney, Jr electrocuted

South Carolina Electrocutes George Stinney Jr

On June 16, 1944, Stinney became the youngest person to die in the electric chair and the youngest person executed in the United States in the 20th century. At 95 pounds, the straps don’t fit and an electrode was too big for his leg. His feet could not touch the floor.

According to writer Joy James, as the first 2,400-volt surge of electricity hit Stinney, the mask covering his face slipped off, “revealing his wide-open, tearful eyes and saliva coming from his mouth.”

His family buried his burned body in an unmarked grave hoping the anonymity would allow him to rest in peace.

SC Electrocutes George Stinney Jr

70 years, 5 months, 29 days later

On December 17, 2014 South Carolina Circuit Judge Carmen T. Mullen vacated Stinney’s murder conviction. Judge Mullen called it a “great and fundamental injustice,.”

Mullen did not rule that the conviction of Mr. Stinney for the murder of two white girls was wrong on the merits. She did find, however, that the prosecution had failed in numerous ways to safeguard Swinney’s constitutional rights from the time police took him into custody until his death by electrocution.

The all-white jury could not be considered a jury of the teenager’s peers, Judge Mullen ruled, and Stinney’s court-appointed attorney did “little to nothing” to defend him. Stinney’s  confession was most likely coerced and unreliable, Mullen added, “due to the power differential between his position as a 14-year-old black male apprehended and questioned by white, uniformed law enforcement in a small, segregated mill town in South Carolina.” [full NYT article]

SC Electrocutes George Stinney Jr

Continued blindness

Frankie Bailey Dyches, the niece of one of the victims, disagreed.  “I believe that he confessed,” said Dyches, who was born after the 1944 killings. “He was tried, found guilty by the laws of 1944, which are completely different now — it can’t be compared — and I think that it needs to be left as is.”

The Conservative Headlines site has stated, “Make no mistake: George Stinney Jr was 100% guilty. The white Marxists, the media, and black power groups are perfectly comfortable pretending like he is innocent to advance their political agenda. They are completely comfortable spitting on the graves of two little dead girls. To advance the cause of the far-left, murderous thugs are converted into saints and innocent victims into criminals.”

In 2014, the A.N.D. erected a marked grave.

SC Electrocutes George Stinney Jr

Anthony Ray Hinton Released

Anthony Ray Hinton released

“They took off the white robe and put on a black robe.”

Released April 3, 2015
Anthony Ray Hinton released
Bryan Stevenson, Anthony Ray Hinton
Anthony Ray Hinton released


An Alabama jury convicted 29-year-old Anthony Ray Hinton of murdering two  fast-food managers in separate incidents in 1985.

The evidence was weak and his defense weaker. The only evidence linking Hinton to the crimes were bullets that allegedly had markings matching a revolver that belonged to Hinton’s mother. There were no fingerprints or eyewitness testimony. After Hinton was convicted, subsequent tests found the bullets at the scene could not be matched to the gun he was accused of using.

Anthony Ray Hinton released

Death Penalty

But Alabama sentenced him to die. In 2003, a New York Times article wrote, “There are reasons beyond the firearms evidence to doubt Mr. Hinton’s guilt. He was at work, several people testified, when the third shooting happened. The car he was said to have driven on the night of the third shooting had been repossessed months before. The restaurant robberies continued after his arrest.” 

Hinton’s court-appointed lawyer had spent only $1000 on an expert witness (despite the fact that Alabama law provides reimbursement for any reasonable defense expenses.) whose testimony was so weak he could not answer basic questions. 

Equal Justice Initiative

On February 24, 2014, through the efforts of the Equal Justice Initiative group, the US Supreme Court declared that “the criminal (Hinton) defendant’s Sixth Amendment right to counsel is violated if his trial attorney’s performance falls below an objective standard or reasonableness and if there is a reasonable probability that the result of the trial would have been different.” (full text of Supreme Court decision)

According to the EJI site, “The Equal Justice Initiative is a private, nonprofit 501(c)(3) organization that provides legal representation to indigent defendants and prisoners who have been denied fair and just treatment in the legal system.”

The site also states that, “3170 people in the United States currently are under a death sentence. Since the death penalty was reinstated in 1976, 1314 men, women, children, and mentally ill people have been shot, hanged, asphyxiated, lethally injected, and electrocuted by States and the federal government.”


Anthony Ray Hinton greets family and friends upon his release (Credit Bob Miller for The New York Times)

On April 3, 2015, Anthony Ray Hinton  was freed after EJI and its experts undermined the Alabama’s case.

Anthony Ray Hinton released

ABC News report

Post release

Since his release, Hinton has spoken in various venues about the injustices of the Alabama judicial system and other issues related to his conviction and imprisonment. He completed a memoir entitled The Sun Does Shine: How I Found Life and Freedom on Death Row (2018), and has given readings and talks around the country about the book and his experiences.

Anthony Ray Hinton released