ALCOLU, SC (WIS) - Seventy years after he was convicted of murder and executed by the state of South Carolina, a 14-year-old Alcolu boy was exonerated by a circuit court judge on Wednesday.
Judge Carmen Mullen vacated the decision against George Stinney, who was convicted of beating Mary Emma Thames and Betty June Binnicker to death in 1944.
Stinney was executed in June 1944 by electric chair. The teen was so small he had to sit on a phone book to be executed by the chair.
Judge Mullen's ruling effectively clears Stinney's name. In her ruling, Mullen said she found Stinney was never given any kind of defense and his due process was violated.
"Given the particularized circumstances of Stinney's case, I find by a preponderance of the evidence standard, that a violation of the Defendant's procedural due process rights tainted his prosecution," Mullen said in the ruling.
Stinney's family and judicial advocates have spent the past several years doggedly trying to get the case re-opened because they believe Stinney was forced into a confession by police.
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.
Defense attorney Steven McKenzie applauded the judge's ruling.
"By not putting the state's case to the test at all, by not cross examining witnesses, not putting up a defense at all, not giving a closing argument, George was never afforded effective council and as a result his Sixth Amendment rights were violated," McKenzie said.
Judge Mullen also stated clearly that this ruling does not necessarily open the door for other long and completed cases to be revisited. The relatives of the two young girls that were murdered were not happy about the news. Attorneys say at this point they don't believe the true murderer will ever be caught.