Doug's Darkworld

War, Science, and Philosophy in a Fractured World.

Troy Davis, George Stinney, and the Death Penalty

with 11 comments

(Insert images of  Betty June Binnicke and Mary Emma Thames here.)

The recent Troy Davis execution got me thinking about the death penalty in the USA. And then I read about George Stinney, executed at age 14. One of the youngest people ever executed in the USA, and an interesting case in its own right.  So I thought I’d write a post on the death penalty, and collect my ramblings on the topic in one place.

There are many opinions out there. It is probably safe to say that at this moment at some university or online criminal justice school the very topic of the death penalty is being debated. Personally, I’m not a big fan of the death penalty. The first reason is that it is barbaric. The fact that people have spent centuries trying to find “humane” ways to kill people doesn’t make it any less barbaric. Whether one stones them to death or straps them to a table and pumps poison into their veins, an execution is simply killing someone. There’s nothing civilized about that, as William Munny so succinctly put it: “It’s a hell of a thing, killing a man. Take away all he’s got and all he’s ever gonna have.”

That aside , my second problem is that human institutions are very error prone. If the authorities lock someone away by mistake, at least there is a chance it will someday be rectified. Can’t exactly dig someone up and pardon them. Which is why I have problems with the Troy Davis case. It was based mostly if not entirely on eyewitnesses, most of whom recanted. Eyewitness testimony is garbage. Don’t get me wrong, I have no problem with killing people like Ted Bundy, but the crime has to be monstrous and the guilt incontrovertible. The Troy Davis case didn’t pass that standard, period.

Which leads us to the George Stinney case, recently resurrected by foes of the death penalty: 1944 Georgia, two little girls picking flowers go missing. The next day searchers find their battered bodies in a  pond, and authorities pick up the last person to see them alive, a teenage boy name of George Stinney. In custody he quickly confesses, though he is denied all access to his family or legal council. There is a short (one day) trial where again his family can’t help in any way, and he is sentenced to death. His family can’t afford an appeal, and just three months after the crime of which he was accused occurred, a small teenage boy was strapped to an electric chair and made it into history as the youngest person executed in the USA in the 20th century.

It’s easy to see why people use the George Stinney case as a cause célèbre in their anti-death penalty crusade. He was just a  kid for Christ’s sake. His trial was a joke, his confession likely coerced. (And it’s not even in the historical record.) No appeal, and executed in three months? It’s hard not to see this as a monstrous injustice, and a product of a racist violent south where George and his family can count it as a blessing that they weren’t all lynched, as was a common custom of the time.

Now here’s the kicker. I did a little more digging on the George Stinney case. The facts above are all accurate as they go. And people then objected, the NAACP got involved to no avail. Still, people using the case to promote an anti death penalty cause might at to know a little more. Some details seem to be left out of most accounts. The ugly truth is, it’s a pretty safe bet that George Stinney did indeed brutally and senselessly murder two little girls. Say what? What is oft omitted is that after confessing, George led police to the crime scene and produced the murder weapon from hiding. And he never recanted and didn’t go to his death proclaiming his innocence. If there’s any truth to this, George was a pretty classic prototypical teenage serial killer. The fact that he got caught and executed on his first kills may very well have saved a dozen lives or more.

So what’s real? Hell if I know. I still don’t think George Stinney should have been sent to his death in such haste, but a world war was raging. (The execution took place a few weeks after D-Day, the nation’s attention was elsewhere.) I just think opponents of the death penalty might want to find a better case. If George did indeed kill those two little girls, putting him down was the best for all concerned. Right?

(The above image doesn’t exist apparently. I find it very sad that there are a million pictures of George Stinney posted on line, but I couldn’t find a single image of either of his victims. God rest their souls.)

Written by unitedcats

September 27, 2011 at 9:20 am

11 Responses

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  1. excellent post.
    well-written.
    thoughtful.
    thought provoking.

    thankful to have found your site.

    jeff

    September 27, 2011 at 2:01 pm

  2. Please site your source re: Stinney leading authorities to the murder site and recovery of the weapon.

    Lori

    October 4, 2011 at 2:01 pm

  3. I could be totally in favor of the death penalty, if you can assure me that not one innocent person will ever be executed.

  4. If a kid murders at 14 – he will murder again. Luckily he never got the chance for an encore.

    Buck L. Emdowne

    June 23, 2012 at 4:02 pm

  5. I find this to he very racist how can a 5’1 90lb child kill to girls at the same damn time? If that makes sense to you plz kill yourself. Then to run his parents out of town abd not let them say good bye is horrible… Then threaten to kill them smh….. I feel like if we blacks go on a killing spree most of you whites would be dead and chill tf out a lot of you whites think its cool to judge us blacks but MAJORITY OF YOU ALL GeT HELP FROM THE GOVERNMENT how dare you act up like it can’t be takened? Y’all will forever be weak and we will forecer be strong by the way 2 degrees and a masters and I run the WHITE PEOPLE IN MY OFFICE :) lucky I’m not racist but to prove a point against you racist sons of bitches!!!! Signed strong black WOMAN

    Richer than u

    July 16, 2013 at 4:51 am

    • Children can and do sometimes commit terrible crimes. Teen once lauded as hero is charged in Davis double-homicide case. I fully agree the entire case from beginning to end was an example of the systematic racism that pervades the “justice system” in the USA. I will be blogging soon on the miscarriage of justice surrounding Trayvon Martin’s murder. Thanks for commenting! —Doug

      unitedcats

      July 16, 2013 at 6:39 am

    • I don’t think George was the killer maybe do more research before smearing his name on another site as some killer. He was brought to the site and told to go get the weapon, he never directed the location. The time frame is impossible and he wasn’t strong enough to move those 2 bodies and not be seen. Plus how did he bend those bikes? Where did he get the railroad spike, you could not obtain one unless you removed one from the train (impossible for him) or get it from the yard which was fenced off and forbidden, especially a black boy. He did say he was innocent several times. Once in a letter. He was framed by evil men who clearly had something to hide. The prosecutor stated he wanted to have sex with the girls but no evidence of sexual abuse existed and he was denied by the governor to stop the execution because of sexual assault which he was never charged for. He had a alibi but nobody called for witnesses and instead ran the family out of town or fear having all their children lynched. When George was found guilty he was quickly moved, however if not moved so quickly the mob had come for him but were to late. Could you imagine what they would have done to him? A child. Emmett Till might come to mind but in front of a raging crowd of cheers. Yes back than people cheered like it was a bull fight, while men, women and children begged for their lives. Postcards were created and sent out like greeting cards with pictures of crowds of all ages smiled like idiots. Without laws there is a good portion of human filth that have no understanding of how to behave properly or respect for ones life. To think of what some humans are capable of with out laws. Stop spreading Georges names as some evil child. He was a good child, smart and love to draw. He had a fascination for airplanes and did his chores and spent a lot of his time with his baby sister who adored him. He was like my own son and my 14 boy would never hurt a soul. Please stop the spread of lies and hate. We have come for far, regardless of someone’s defense to this and I accept them. You do not kill a child who didn’t even fit in the chair and used his bible to sit on to give him enough height as he cried. It took 4 minutes to execute him and the face mask fell off after the first bolt of electricity and reveal the face of a sobbing boy in horror. He did not get a fair trial and was alone for 83 days before he was executed. I think that was punishment enough, someone wanted this boy to take the fall and disappear before anything else got out. It was a cruel world back than and we have to admit when we did wrong and learn and become better people.

      Chris

      February 4, 2014 at 7:10 am

  6. It’s pretty darn tough for a 14-year-old to lie to adults. George Stinney did in fact murder the two white girls. George told at least three different stories during his interrogation. 1) He didn’t do it; 2) He did it but was defending himself from the little girls who, he claimed, for no reason just attack him; 3) The truth– He was insistent with sex with the 11-year-old. When she refused and tried to flee, in a fit of rage, he pulled a railroad spike from his pants pocket and began beating both girls. He then sexually abused the dead girls.

    George NEVER professed his innocence; nor did his parents or the NAACP. BTW, why was George carrying a railroad spike in his pants pocket? A weapon… Well before George approached the two white girls…he knew what he was going to do.

    http://theinjusticefile.blogspot.com/2012/08/george-stinney-negro-atrocity-being.html

    americans4justice

    July 18, 2013 at 12:26 pm

  7. Wow! It took me a while to get to this one, Doug. I have two cousins in the prison system – both sisters. One is incarcerated for second degree murder in Idaho. The other is serving her second year as a prison guard in a neighboring state. The latter states complete support for capital punishment. She dismisses the fact innocents may be put to death and concedes they might. Her indoctrination is complete.

    Lars

    January 2, 2014 at 3:29 pm

  8. To the writter of the article i feel the same way I wish there are more photos of the two little girls Betty June Binnicke and Mary Emma Thames. They have enough photos and info of that black boy but hardly any information or photos of those two innocent little girls that were brutally killed.

    Mark

    August 1, 2014 at 12:48 am


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