Criminal Justice

Judge mulls retrial in case of 14-year-old black youth tried and executed in 1944

A South Carolina prosecutor agrees that a 14-year-old black youth convicted and executed in 1944 for killing two white girls didn’t get a fair trial by today’s standards. But he argued on Tuesday that the case should not be retried.

The prosecutor, Ernest “Chip” Finney III, argued that too much evidence has been lost with the passage of time, the Associated Press reports here and here. CNN, Reuters, the State and Courthouse News Service also covered the case.

George Stinney, 14, was tried by an all-white jury in proceedings that lasted for one afternoon, the State says. The jury voted to convict after deliberating for 10 minutes. The execution took place less than three months after the girls died. He is the youngest person executed in the country in the last hundred years, the stories say.

There was no trial transcript, and the youth’s confession has disappeared. “The evidence here is too speculative, and the record too unclear, for this motion to succeed,” Finney argued.

Lawyers for Stinney’s family say new evidence shows the boy was not at the scene of the crime and the autopsies were flawed. The lawyers argue the family can seek to overturn the conviction because civil rights claims survive death, according to Courthouse News Service.

Judge Carmen Mullen opened the hearing by questioning the lawyers about the need for a new trial, according to the stories. “What can I do? What can I rectify?” Mullen said. “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.”

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