This photo provided by the South Carolina Department of Archives and History shows 14-year-old George Stinney Jr. (AP Photo/South Carolina Department of Archives and History)
The youngest person executed in the United States in the 20th century will have a new day in court, 69 years after an all-white jury in South Carolina took less than 10 minutes to find him guilty of the murder of two young white girls. George Stinney Jr. was just 14 in the spring of 1944 when he was arrested for the murder of June Binnicker, 11, and 7-year-old Mary Emma Thames, who were found stabbed to death with a railway spike. The black teenager, who had been seen talking to the girls the day they vanished, died in the electric chair 84 days after the crime. Supporters have now asked a county judge to grant Stinney a new trial, the Guardian reports.
A lawyer acting for Stinney’s family says the conviction was based on a forced confession. He says the 90-pound teen would have been physically unable to commit the crime—and he has sworn statements from two still-living siblings who say he was with them throughout the day the girls disappeared. Another lawyer explains to the Sumter Item that his family “was essentially run out of town” after his arrest, preventing them from testifying. The Guardian reports that state rules restrict the introduction of new evidence and mean a new trial is unlikely to happen, but family members say it will be a victory just to get the case back into a courtroom when a hearing on the lawyer’s motion is held. “His family is still thriving, but his soul is not at rest,” a cousin says. “There has been no justice for George, nor for those two young girls, because we know that he is innocent.”