Justice still sought in 1944 execution of 14-year-old George Stinney Jr.

Family, activist work to clear boy's name

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The Rev. W.J. Frierson Sr. takes part in a memorial for George Stinney at the Green Hill Missionary Baptist Church in Alcolu, S.C., In September of 2013  Frierson has gathered newspaper articles and documents on the George Stinney case and is convinced the boy was innocent.  (AP Photo/The Item, Robert J. Baker) (REV-SHARE)  ROBERT J. BAKER/ASSOCIATED PRESS
ROBERT J. BAKER/ASSOCIATED PRESS
The Rev. W.J. Frierson Sr. takes part in a memorial for George Stinney at the Green Hill Missionary Baptist Church in Alcolu, S.C., In September of 2013 Frierson has gathered newspaper articles and documents on the George Stinney case and is convinced the boy was innocent. (AP Photo/The Item, Robert J. Baker) (REV-SHARE)

ALCOLU, S.C. — To George Stinney Jr.’s remaining family and neighbors, the young boy was a quiet, straight-A student who enjoyed drawing, reading and introspection.

In 1944, he would become known to Alcolu and Clarendon County residents as a cold-blooded murderer who bludgeoned two young girls to death with a railroad spike. His family has always challenged his conviction, which took an all-white jury only 10 minutes to decide in the summer of 1944.

Sixty-nine years later, Stinney is mostly remembered as one of the youngest defendants executed in American history and the youngest executed in the 20th century.

“The Stinney family is still very much alive, though, and there are thousands of us throughout the United States,” said Irene Hill, Stinney’s second cousin. She and other family members joined friends and supporters of efforts to have the boy’s name cleared posthumously earlier this month at Green Hill Missionary Baptist Church in Alcolu.

The church is not far from where the young boy played with his sister, Aime, the day two young white girls, June Binnicker, 11, and Mary Emma Thames, 7, disappeared on Friday, March 24, 1944.

Aime L. Stinney told The Item in 2009 that she and her brother did interact with the two slain girls shortly before they disappeared.

The girls’ bodies were found the next morning in a creek. Stinney was in police custody by midday Saturday and was ultimately housed in a Columbia jail because of fears of a lynch mob in Clarendon County.

“His family is still thriving, but his soul is not at rest,” Hill said. “It has been 69 years now, and there still is no justice. There has been no justice for George, nor for those two young girls, because we know that he is innocent.”
The case has occupied much of George Frierson’s time since he first learned of it about eight years ago. The Clarendon School District 3 board member and community activist carries around a binder thicker than a telephone book crammed with newspaper accounts and other documents related to the case.

“At times it has been a bit lonely, my work on this case,” he said. “At times I’ve been worried about my safety. But I’m convinced that this young man is innocent, and I can’t just sit back and let history record him as guilty.”

Frierson is eager to share information about Stinney with anyone he thinks might be in a position to help the cause.

Family members have declared Stinney’s innocence from the beginning, and both white and black clergy associations petitioned Gov. Olin Johnston to at least commute the boy’s sentence to life imprisonment. So did the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People, but Johnston said he saw nothing wrong with Stinney’s trial.

That trial began at 2:30 p.m. April 24, just a month after the girls’ disappearance, and was finished within two-and-a-half hours. Stinney had allegedly confessed, though no written confession has ever been found. Manning attorney Steve McKenzie, who worked with Frierson on the case for several years, said he heard an account where detectives offered the boy ice cream once they were done.

“They were going to make it where he was going to say whatever they wanted him to say,” McKenzie said.

Stinney’s court-appointed attorney was a tax commissioner preparing for a Statehouse run, and 1944 was an election year. Stinney supporters think the man called no defense witnesses and abrogated a proper defense to not rattle white voters. The attorney never filed an appeal and did not challenge the sheriff’s recollection of the confession.

Frierson says he has worked for years to obtain the victims’ autopsy reports. The graphic reports detail injuries that Frierson thinks could not have been inflicted by Stinney’s small frame. Indeed, historical records show that the 5-foot-1, 90-pound boy had to be specially fitted into the electric chair on the day of his execution.

“These records show a much larger man had to be the culprit,” Frierson said. The reports also show that neither of the girls was sexually assaulted. Deputies claimed at trial that Stinney’s motive in murdering the girls was to cover up a rape attempt.

“Every piece of evidence that we have shows that Stinney did not do these terrible offenses,” Frierson said in 2009.

He continues to think that four years later and said it is only a matter of time before some legal authority agrees with him.

The Rev. W.J. Frierson, himself a member of Clarendon County Council who has been fascinated with the case, told Stinney’s family they should “keep the faith ... and trust in the God of Daniel, Shadrach, Meshach and Abednego to see (them) through.”

“Not just (Stinney), but three young folks lost their lives in this terrible case,” the Rev. Frierson said. “We ask God to bring justice today, not just for (Stinney) but for those two young girls.”

Hill said her family is “willing to go the distance.”

“Stinney is a peaceful name,” Hill said. “We have always known that. The Stinneys are not about taking lives, they are about God.”

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Dixieman
10350
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Dixieman 09/28/13 - 09:27 pm
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3

So...

...the trial in 1944 was less than perfect. Okay. Trials are. But where is the exculpatory evidence? None even mentioned....

KSL
105651
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KSL 09/28/13 - 11:39 pm
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5

Robert Baker, stir the pot.

Robert Baker, stir the pot. Now, do a story on an innocent white person put to death.

myfather15
42139
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myfather15 09/29/13 - 05:47 am
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Wow,

Really sad case, all the way around.

Little Lamb
40104
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Little Lamb 09/29/13 - 06:43 am
5
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Evidence

That article from Raw Story George posted above also contains no evidence. It merely says that the family hopes to get an exoneration merely by appealing for a non-family "witness" to come forward and be a character witness for Stinney. It's been seventy years, folks. I wouldn't trust such a witness.

nocnoc
30753
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nocnoc 09/29/13 - 09:19 am
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The long fight.

Fight it long enough and likely enough witnesses and people die, memories fade and facts get lost or polluted.

At this point the REAL truth will never be known.

There will be those that feel the outcome, that the family gets, either way will be questioned.

There will be those that welcome it as a rightfully won correction to history.

There will be those feel they just kept it up until they found the right environment to get a politically correct pardon.

But any witness that comes forward will be giving testimony based on memories 69 years ago. If that witness was 14, like the murdered girls that person is 83+. Now consider for a second retelling yourself a memory you had in 7th grade that you witnessed 30, 40, 50 or yes 69 years ago. What you trust you memory to convict?

There will be no real justice, just a rewrite of history.

jack234
676
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jack234 09/29/13 - 09:19 am
2
5

Why does KSL want to inject

Why does KSL want to inject race into everything?

rmwhitley
5081
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rmwhitley 09/29/13 - 09:26 am
0
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I think,

Unpublished

since he was black, we should pay his family reparations. I think the Easter Bunny is doing a wonderful job as president, Santa Claus is Jewish, that all muderers should be released, the best liars should be put in elected offices and obamacare is the greatest thing since the guillotine.

Pops
4303
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Pops 09/29/13 - 09:38 am
3
3

Petition Obama

to give a pardon. That should solve the problem.

nocnoc
30753
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nocnoc 09/29/13 - 11:11 am
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jack234 - the very story is

jack234 - the very story is about race in the 1940's.

Interesting this was brought up and so close to an election year with certain political & civil rights groups trying to stir up 60+ year in justices and causes just to galvanize voters.

http://murderpedia.org/male.S/s/stinney-george.htm

The only real winners will be those that use the situation to gain notoriety, fame, status and civil rights leadership standing by championing this cause.

Fiat_Lux
13857
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Fiat_Lux 09/29/13 - 12:13 pm
5
2

Got that right, nocnoc

I'm all for closure for the Stinnie family and vindication of poor George if warranted, but without some objective exculpatory evidence, or even something put down in writing much nearer the time of the murder by an eyewitness, there is little hope for that.

Is anyone really dumb enough to think raking all this up again will improve race relations?

We've all seen or read "To Kill a Mockingbird", and we all know there were horrible injustices in the past. There are horrible injustices occurring this very day, but it definitely is not happening to or targeting the same groups as a half century ago, no matter what some people bleat. (Let me know if you want documentation.)

I'm a lot more impressed with leaders who address the injustices and savagery happening today than with those whose focus is on things in the distance past,that bringing up only serves to inflame the passions of the weak and angry.

daphne3520
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daphne3520 09/29/13 - 12:00 pm
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myfather15
42139
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myfather15 09/29/13 - 12:31 pm
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I do agree that this should

I do agree that this should be left in the past and we ALL need to move on. Yes, I do have a family member (1st cousin) who was convicted of murder as well, and many believe he is innocent. Actually, everyone knows he shot him, but most believe it was self-defense. The guy he shot was one of the most notorious criminal's in the County where I was raised, in the mountains of NC. He was a "Hell Raiser" in other words. He was also sleeping with my cousin's wife (testimony proven).

They got into an argument and my cousin shot him, but "witnesses" said the criminal was charging my cousin, but he was unarmed so they charge my cousin. Plus, they said my cousin came there armed, so they believe he came there to shoot the guy for sleeping with his wife. Although that was theory only, no evidence to support it. My cousin had made no statements about wanting to harm the guy, only talk to him.

My point is, injustices happen. With ones this old and you can't reverse it, leave it in the past. This is a very sad case, but learn from it and leave it in the past. No reason to waste resources on this. Have good memorial's every year and one day, especially if he WAS innocent, you will see George again.

myfather15
42139
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myfather15 09/29/13 - 12:37 pm
2
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Nocnoc

I do disagree a little though. They might not remember what they ate for dinner that night, but; if you were with George, during the time he supposedly killed them. Then, for weeks and months afterwards, you were hearing about this case, over and over; you would probably still remember it, because it was a major event in your life.

Just like me as a deputy; I do not remember every aspect of every case I've ever worked, that would be impossible. But I certainly do remember vivid details of certain cases I've worked, because they were very dramatic and horrible. These will probably stick with me the rest of my life. So, while highly unlikely, it's quite possible to remember this case if you're 84 years old. I'm sure it was the talk of the town for many weeks.

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