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Death penalty case of 14-year-old child may be reopened by South Carolina judge

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“Stinney's trial lasted about 3 hours. According to reports, the defense presented no witnesses, no physical evidence, and did not file an appeal. It took a jury of 12 white men 10 minutes to decide Stinney's fate.” The article on wistv.com dated 01/20/2014, uses these words to describe a 1944 South Carolina capital murder case that led to 14-year-old George Stinney’s death by electric chair. Stinney was at that time, and remains, the youngest child to receive the death penalty in South Carolina history.

Two things immediately jump out of this bone-chilling statement. The first is that George Stinney was a black child. This is at odds with the whole concept of jury of his peers. The legal definition given in The Free Dictionary for a jury of one’s peers includes the fact that “Jury selection may include no process which excludes those of a particular race or intentionally narrows the spectrum of possible jurors”. This trial was in no way a jury of George Stinney’s peers.

The second thing that is mind-boggling is that this seemingly thoughtful and thorough jury only deliberated 10 minutes. That means that they discussed the case, dissected the evidence, and carefully reached a decision to end a boy’s life in the time it takes to order a coffee and bagel at your local deli. And probably more concern would have been taken with the latter decision.

Stinney’s sister Amie was with him that day. She and the family were forced to leave town out of fear for their lives back in 1944. Now they are pushing to have the case re-opened and this time she will be able to testify. She proclaims that her brother is innocent, she was with him that day, and now she can tell the truth without fear of repercussions to herself and her family.

If Stinney, in his absence is given a fair trial and still found guilty, the verdict will stand. If he is found innocent, then at least his family and descendants deserve to have his name, as well as the family’s name cleared. But South Carolina must give this man the trial that every citizen has a right to under due process of the law. According to the Christian Post, a judge will decide this Tuesday if a new trial will be granted or not.

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