14-year-Old Black Boy Executed On This Day in 1944

On this day in 1944, George Stinney, Jr., a Black child, was executed in South Carolina for the murder of two white girls
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Photo: South Carolina Department of Archives

On this day in 1944, George Stinney, Jr., a Black child, was executed in South Carolina for the murder of two white girls who were found dead in a ditch in Alcolu, a rural town in the segregated South. At age 14, weighing just 90 pounds, George is the youngest person ever to be executed in the United States.

Seventy years later, in 2014, a South Carolina Circuit Court Judge vacated George’s murder conviction saying that the case was marred by “fundamental, constitutional violations of due process.”

The police questioned George without an attorney present and claimed to have obtained a confession but made no written record. During the trial, George’s lawyer didn’t even challenge the supposed confession, called no witnesses, and made no appeal when the child was sentenced to death.

This entire case was plagued with racism, police misconduct, and inadequate representation. It’s appalling that despite all of this, the State of South Carolina still decided to execute a 14-year-old boy, who may well have been innocent.

It’s cases like George Stinney, Jr.’s that highlight the desperate need to abolish the death penalty. And such injustices are still at risk of occurring today.

Since 1973, 185 people sentenced to death for crimes they did not commit have been exonerated.

Clearing the federal death row is the best way to ensure that the U.S. government does not risk the irreversible horror of executing innocent people.

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