Friday 15 December 2017

Lawyers for US boy executed in 1944 seek new trial

George Stinney Jr appears in an undated police booking photo provided by the South Carolina Department of Archives and History. Attorneys in South Carolina say they have found fresh evidence that warrants a new trial in the case of a 14-year-old black teenager put to death nearly 70 years ago for the murders of two white girls. George Stinney Jr. was the youngest person to be executed in the United States in the last century, and attorneys say the request for another trial so long after a defendant's death is the first of its kind in South Carolina. REUTERS/South Carolina Department of Archives and History/Handout (UNITED STATES - Tags: CRIME LAW HEADSHOT) FOR EDITORIAL USE ONLY. NOT FOR SALE FOR MARKETING OR ADVERTISING CAMPAIGNS. THIS IMAGE HAS BEEN SUPPLIED BY A THIRD PARTY. IT IS DISTRIBUTED, EXACTLY AS RECEIVED BY REUTERS, AS A SERVICE TO CLIENTS
George Stinney Jr appears in an undated police booking photo provided by the South Carolina Department of Archives and History. Attorneys in South Carolina say they have found fresh evidence that warrants a new trial in the case of a 14-year-old black teenager put to death nearly 70 years ago for the murders of two white girls. George Stinney Jr. was the youngest person to be executed in the United States in the last century, and attorneys say the request for another trial so long after a defendant's death is the first of its kind in South Carolina. REUTERS/South Carolina Department of Archives and History/Handout (UNITED STATES - Tags: CRIME LAW HEADSHOT) FOR EDITORIAL USE ONLY. NOT FOR SALE FOR MARKETING OR ADVERTISING CAMPAIGNS. THIS IMAGE HAS BEEN SUPPLIED BY A THIRD PARTY. IT IS DISTRIBUTED, EXACTLY AS RECEIVED BY REUTERS, AS A SERVICE TO CLIENTS
Defense witness Katherine Stinney-Robinson leaves the stand after her testimony at the hearing to reopen the case for her brother George Stinney Jr. in Sumter, South Carolina on January 21, 2014. Photo: Reuters.

Jeffrey Collins, South Carolina

A 14-year-old black boy executed nearly 70 years ago is finally getting another day in court, and his lawyers plan to argue for a new trial, saying his conviction was tainted by the segregationist-era justice system and scant evidence.

George Stinney was found guilty in 1944 of killing two white girls, ages 7 and 11. The trial lasted less than a day in the southern mill town of Alcolu.

Nearly all the evidence, including a confession that was central to the case against Stinney, has disappeared, along with the transcript of the trial. Lawyers working on behalf of Stinney's family have gathered new evidence, including sworn statements from his relatives accounting for his whereabouts the day and from a pathologist disputing the autopsy findings.

The novel decision of whether to give someone executed a new trial will be in the hands of Circuit Judge Carmen Mullen. She said her task isn't deciding whether Stinney is guilty or innocent, but whether he got a fair trial at the time.

"What can I do? What can I rectify?" Judge Mullen said at the beginning of the hearing. "And even if we did retry, Mr Stinney, what would be the result? Again, none of us have the power to bring that 14-year-old child back."

Experts say the request it is a longshot because South Carolina law has a high bar to grant new trials. Also, the legal system in the state before segregation often found defendants guilty with evidence that would be considered scant today. If Judge Mullen finds in favour of Stinney, it could open the door for hundreds of other appeals.

But the Stinney case is unique. At 14, he's the youngest person executed in the US in the past 100 years. Even in 1944, there was an outcry over putting someone so young in the electric chair.

Irish Independent

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