In 1944 George Stinney, a black teenager from South Carolina was arrested and charged with the murders of two young white girls.
Betty June Binnicker, 11, and Mary Emma Thames, 7, had been bludgeoned in the head and their bodies left in a ditch near a church. Reports state that, even after the undertakers had put makeup on the girls for the funeral, their faces were still black and blue.
Stinney, according to family and friends of Binnicker, had a reputation as a bully. Evelyn Roberson, who was 15 at the time of the murder, said that Stinney actually confessed the murder to her grandmother. Roberson stated:
“I think he did it, and he should have gotten punished for it and he did.”
A pardon was never granted for Stinney because he made official statements during interrogation that he had raped the older girl before killing her. The autopsy report showed no indication of a rape, however. While he was being held Stinney confessed to a cellmate that he had been forced and coerced into admitting that he had raped and killed the girls, which is part of what prompted the reopening of the investigation.
In all, from arrest to conviction to execution, Stinney was killed at the hands of the state in 83 days.
All of this happened during a time of great racial disparity in the South, during the Jim Crow era.
Stinney finally vindicated.
Stinney’s family have been trying for years to get the verdict overturned and expose the case as another example of the horrors and extremism that pervaded the South during those times. The case was held by a juror of 12 whites and the trial lasted a single day. Once the ‘guilty’ verdict was read it took the all-white jury 10 minutes to convict him of the death penalty. Less than three months after the horrendous murder of two young girls the jury had found their patsy and conducted a state-sanctioned murder of another young child.
Circuit Court Judge Carmen Mullen came to the same conclusion after reviewing the facts of the case and overturned the ruling against George Stinney. Although it comes 70 years too late to save the life of the young boy, it can bring the family some peace in knowing that George will not be remembered as the monster he was portrayed as. It’s also a stark reminder that although we live in a democracy, a nation with a “rule of law” that those laws can still be subverted to bring about unjust ends..