CHARLESTON - A memorial will be unveiled this weekend in honor of a 14-year-old black youth executed by the state of South Carolina 70 years ago.
Supporters and family of George Stinney Jr., who say he was wrongly convicted of killing two white girls in the segregated South, will gather Saturday afternoon along U.S. 521 in the Clarendon County community of Alcolu to unveil the memorial.
"We are doing this to make sure he is never forgotten," said George Frierson, a school board member who has been pushing to clear Stinney's name for almost a decade. "This is a travesty in the American judicial system."
The memorial unveiling in the town where the slayings occurred comes two days before the 70th anniversary of Stinney's execution. The youth was led to the electric chair June 16, 1944, with a Bible in his arm, the youngest person put to death in the nation in the past century.
"We want to make sure he is remembered and his execution is remembered," Frierson said. "He never had an opportunity to grow up, get married and have children."
Supporters of Stinney say deputies at the time did little investigation into the killing of the two white girls, ages 7 and 11, after deciding he was their prime suspect. They believe police coerced a confession from him. That confession and the transcript of the one-day trial later disappeared.
During the trial, Stinney's lawyer, who was white, called no witnesses and did no cross-examination. He was running to be a legislator at a time when almost all voters were white.
Last January attorneys argued during a two-day hearing before Circuit Judge Carmen Mullen that there should be a new trial so Stinney's name can be cleared.
Solicitor Ernest "Chip" Finney III argued the courts did a good job under the standards of the 1940 legal system and that while evidence in the case wasn't destroyed, it did disappear over time.
Mullen has not yet issued a decision in the case.
In this Dec. 5, 1939 file photo, President Franklin Roosevelt, left, talks to South Carolina Governor Olin Johnston at a breakfast in the mansion at Columbia, S.C. Leaving a judge to decide whether to throw out the conviction of 14-year-old George Stinney, who was executed in South Carolina in 1944, reminds his supporters of how the teen’s fate was also in Johnston’s hands nearly 70 years ago. Stinney’s conviction is being challenged by a lawsuit filed by supporters asking for a new trial, a move unprecedented in South Carolina for someone already put to death.×