March 24, 1944
Alcolu, South Carolina
2 young girls, ages 11 and 8, are beaten to death with a railroad spike and wooden beam
The girls had disappeared while looking for flowers on March 23. The following day, their bodies were found in a ditch of muddy water, both having severe blunt force trauma to their heads. Due to extremely circumstantial evidence (the girls briefly spoke to 14-year-old George Stinney Jr. and his sister Katherine before their disappearance), police questioned Stinney and received a confession, likely coerced from the boy or fabricated (the confession happened in a closed room with no witnesses or other adults aside from police officers). Stinney “confessed” to wanting to have sex with the older girl and felt the need to dispatch of the younger to fulfill his desire.
The public outrage at such a violent crime against children, plus the addition of racial tension, ensured Stinney was doomed from the start. His lawyer made no attempt to cross-examine witnesses; he also failed to mention the wooden beam used to crush the girls’ skulls weighed 20lbs, making it difficult for Stinney to lift and impossible to swing hard enough to inflict the necessary damage to kill the girls.
The entire trial, from jury selection to conviction, lasted only 7 hours, from 10am to 5pm on April 24; the jury took 10 minutes to deliberate his fate. Stinney was sentenced to death by electric chair, carried out June 16, 1944, less than 3 months from the date of the crime. Stinney became the youngest person in the United States to be legally executed in the twentieth century.