George Junius Stinney Jr. was, at age 14, the youngest person executed in the United States in the 20th century.
Stinney, of Alcolu, South Carolina, was convicted of murdering two young girls after police said he confessed to the murders. But the question of Stinney’s guilt, the validity of his alleged confession and the judicial process leading to his execution has been criticized as a miscarriage of justice and as an example of the many injustices African-Americans suffered in courtrooms in the Southern United States in the first half of the 20th Century.
Following his arrest, Stinney’s father was fired from his job and his parents and siblings were given the choice of leaving town or being lynched. The family was forced to flee, leaving the 14-year-old child with no support during his 81-day confinement and trial.
His trial, including jury selection, lasted just one day. There was no court challenge to the testimony of the three police officers who claimed that Stinney had confessed, although that was the only evidence presented. There were no written records of a confession. Three witnesses were called for the prosecution: the man who discovered the bodies of the two girls and the two doctors who performed the post mortem. No witnesses were called for the defense. The trial before a completely white jury and audience (African-Americans were not allowed entrance) lasted two and a half hours. The jury took ten minutes to deliberate before it returned with a guilty verdict.
The execution of George Stinney was carried out at the South Carolina State Penitentiary in Columbia, on June 16, 1944. At 7:30 p.m., Stinney walked to the execution chamber with a Bible under his arm, which he later used as a booster seat in the electric chair. Standing 5 foot 2 inches (157 cm) tall and weighing just over 90 pounds (40 kg), he was small for his age, which presented difficulties in securing him to the frame holding the electrodes. Stinney was declared dead within four minutes of the initial electrocution.