During the 20th century, 14-year-old George Stinney Jr. was illegally executed in South Carolina.
At this time, he was the youngest person to be executed. This case is important for many reasons. George Stinney Jr. was only 14-years-old. He was a child and yet he received such an inhumane punishment from the State of South Carolina. In addition to this horrendous punishment, George Jr. was wrongfully convicted. He lost his life for no reason at all.
For Black History Month, we want to look at a case that highlights the suffering and mistreatment of Black people in America. Thankfully, the American justice system has progressed to support fairness and equity to racial minorities; however, this improvement is small. According to research from the University of Michigan, African-American men are 50% more likely to be innocent than other convicted murderers and spend longer in prison before exoneration. In looking at the case of George Stinney, we can understand the history of systemic racism in the criminal justice system and how it negatively affects Black youth like Stinney Jr.
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This is the case of George Stinney Jr.
George was a 14-year- old Black boy. George Wes arrested, convicted, and executed for the murder of 2 white girls, 11-year-old Betty June Binnicker and 7-year-old Mary Emma Thames.
On March 24, 1944, George and his sister were walking home. They were approached by Betty June and Mary Emma. The two girls had a brief conversation with George and his sister, in which they asked if George and his sister had seen any maypop flowers. George and his sister said no, and the two pairs separated.
In the evening, George Jr. and his family were having supper. Suddenly, a neighbour came to their house with the horrifying news that Betty June and Mary Emma were missing. The police conducted a search party to locate the two girls. Meanwhile, neighbours went door to door to see if anyone saw Betty June and Mary Emma earlier that day. When locals arrived at his house, George Jr. mentioned that he had seen the two girls earlier on his way home from school. He told his dad that the girls were looking maypop flowers down by the river.
hours later, Betty June and Mary Emma’s bodies were found in a ditch.
Autopsy reports found that both girls experienced severe blunt force trauma to the head. George Jr. and his sister were the last people known to see Betty June and Mary Emma alive. This made George Jr. and his sister the primary suspects. George and Amie were arrested and detained by local police forces immediately.
Not long after being detained, George Jr.’s sister was released; however, the officers continued to detain George. Eventually, local news media caught wind fo the story and had begun to interview George’s neighbours. Many classmates and neighbours began to report that George Jr. was rude, violent, and mean, claims that could not be proven. George could not access his parents for 83 days, and they did not know where he was detained. Despite many considerable factors such as his legal rights and his age, he was interrogated for hours and was not given any legal counsel.
George Stinney Jr. was convicted of murder and was sentenced to death in 1944. Despite being convicted, no evidence suggested that George Jr. was guilty. Though prosecutors said that George confessed to the murders, no record of this confession exists. Moreover, the trial lasted only one day with virtually no evidence being presented to prove beyond a reasonable doubt that George Jr. was guilty of murder. Many factors, including the lack of evidence, contributed to George Jr.’s denial of the right to a fair trial.
George Jr. has been dead for nearly for over 70 years; however, his conviction has been nullified. Although this action does not reverse the terrible injustice that has been done towards him and his family, it is something that should be considered as a small victory.
Stinney’s case is just one of many wrongful conviction cases in America.
Historically, the criminal justice system thrives on oppressing racialized people. History has shown us that Black people are not necessarily wanted in mainstream American society unless it is to benefit the needs of white people. The justice system is used to contain and regulate Black people who are viewed as being problematic.
mainstream American society historically dehumanizes and ostracizes black people.
This process of marginalization occurs in many forms; for example, the media repeats the narrative that Black is bad and white is good. This image has many repercussions for Black communities. One of these repercussions is that Black people cannot access the opportunities that allow them to reach success in society. This is due to numerous reasons. One of these reasons is that there is an image of criminality and social deviance associated with the Black community.
Racist ideologies and practices, like slavery, have created the discriminatory narrative of the bad Black man. This is why George Jr. and several other Black people throughout history have been arrested and detained without receiving the right to a fair trial. With the image of danger associated with Black men, governing agents believe that it is in the best interests of society to remove Black people from the general population.
Of course, this is not the only causal factor for the overincarceration of Black people, and Black men, in particular, in America. The history of systemic racism in America is a complex phenomenon.
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