10 Minutes of Conviction Sentenced 14 Year Old to Death Row

Updated: Nov 5, 2021

On June 16, 1944 in South Carolina, George Stinney Jr. was the youngest person sentenced to death in the 20th century in the United States.

George Stinney mugshot, 1944. (State of South Carolina)

He was only 14 when he was executed by electric chair. He was accused of killing two white girls, Betty, 11 years old & Mary, 7. The bodies were found in a ditch of a nearby lumbar yard, completely battered and broken. He and his sister had seen the girls earlier in the day when they had ridden their bicycles by. So he was hauled in for questioning.

Betty June Binnicker and Mary Emma Thames.

He was questioned alone – without his parents and without an attorney present. (Gideon v Wainwright wasn’t until 1963-right to a legal consul) At that time all the jurors were white. The trial lasted only 2 hours and the sentence handed down 10 minutes later. The child’s parents were threatened by a lynch mob, prevented from seeing him and run out of town .

Before the execution, George spent 81 days without being able to see his parents. He was trapped in a solitary cell, 80 km from home. He was electrocuted with 5,380 volts in the head. In front of a crowd.

Geroge Stinney Jr., third from left, is seen in this 1944 newspaper photo entering South Carolina’s death house at the state prison in Columbia. (Jimmy Price/Columbia Record)

70 years later, his innocence was finally proven by a judge in South Carolina. The beam with which the two girls were killed, weighed more than 19.07 kilograms. Therefore, it was impossible for Stinney to be able to lift it (he weighed less than 100 pounds) let alone be able to hit hard enough to kill the two girls.

He was used as a scapegoat.

George Stinney Jr was a young black boy railroaded by an all white justice system.

The child was innocent. This was only 76 years ago.

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. Standing 5 feet 1 inch (155 cm) tall and weighing just over 90 pounds (40 kg), 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.

Since Then…

Yes things have improved since, but that doesn’t mean that social injustice and systemic oppression are gone. We still see it every day. Some have to live with it every day. This post isn’t about trying to incite violence towards white people or making them pay for what happened. There were a few hostile users that kept commenting and trying to twist it that way. This isn’t about you. The more you know about our history, the better you can understand why there are protests on the streets and a cry for change. It’s cliche but true: history repeats itself, first as a tragedy, then a farce. The indifference and toxic individualism of Americans have led us to this tipping point.

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