1944: At Age 14, George Junius Stinney, Jr. Becomes the Youngest Person Executed in the United States in the 20th Century

George Stinney was arrested on March 23, 1944 on suspicion of murdering two young girls, Betty June Binnicker, age 11, and Mary Emma Thames, age 8, in Alcolu, South Carolina.

The girls had disappeared the previous day while out riding their bicycles. Witnesses claimed that as they passed the Stinney property (on the other side of the railroad tracks of the small mill town) they asked young George and his sister, Katherine, if they knew where to find “maypops,” a local name for passionflowers.

When the girls did not return home, a massive search was organized. The next morning the bodies of the girls were found in a ditch filled with muddy water. Both had suffered severe head wounds. A few hours later the sheriff arrested George Stinney, his father was fired from his job at the local sawmill, and his family, fearful of being lynched, was forced to flee town.

The trial took one day, including jury selection. Trial presentation lasted two-and-a-half hours. The court-appointed defense counsel, a local politician, did not call any witnesses, and did not challenge the sheriff who testified that George Stinney confessed to the murders, even though Stinney denied confessing to the crime. The all-white jury took ten minutes to deliberate, after which they returned with a guilty verdict.

The execution of George Stinney was carried out at Central Correctional Institution in Columbia, on June 16, 1944. At 7:30 p.m., 81 days after the murders, 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 tall and weighing just over 90 pounds his small size made it difficult to secure him to the frame holding the electrodes. As he was hit with the first surge of electricity, the adult-sized mask covering his face slipped off, “revealing his wide-open, tearful eyes and saliva coming from his mouth…”

After two more jolts of electricity, the boy was dead.

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