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George Stinney Execution: Call For New Trial
A judge is hearing an appeal for a new trial in the case of a black 14-year-old who was executed in South Carolina in 1944 for killing two white girls.
Lawyers for George Stinney's family say new witnesses will prove the boy's innocence and fresh evidence will warrant a new trial.
They hope his conviction for the killings will be thrown out.
"This is a horrific case," defence lawyer Steven McKenzie said.
"Whether justice is 70 years old or one year old or one month old, we think justice needs to be done."
The new witnesses include a cell mate of Stinney, who said the teenager told him he had been forced to confess, as well as a pathologist who recently reviewed the case and found problems with the conclusions of the autopsy.
Stinney was found guilty by a jury of white men after only 10 minutes of deliberations.
He was executed by electrocution just 84 days after the two white girls were killed in South Carolina. No official records of the trial exist.
But lawyers say they have determined he was convicted solely on the testimony of police who said the teen confessed to killing Betty June Binnicker, 11, and Mary Emma Thames, seven.
The two girls disappeared on March 23, 1944, after leaving home on their bicycles to look for wildflowers.
They were found the next morning in a ditch, their skulls crushed and their bicycles on top of them.
After Stinney told of how he had seen the girls along the railroad tracks, he was picked up by police and held for five days before being arrested, according to one of the family's lawyers, Matthew Burgess.
Stinney's sister, Amie Ruffner, now in her 70s and living in New Jersey, testified on Tuesday about how she hid in a chicken coop when several white men in uniforms arrived at their home in strange-looking cars.
She vividly remembered seeing her brother's burned body in a casket after his electrocution and the unmarked grave he was buried in.
But on cross examination, Ms Ruffner struggled to remember details of sworn statement she gave in 2009.
The decision of whether to give someone executed a new trial will be in the hands of Circuit Judge Carmen Mullen.
She said her task is not deciding whether Stinney is guilty or innocent, but whether he got a fair trial at the time.
"What can I do? What can I rectify?" Mullen said at the beginning of the hearing.
"And even if we did retry, Mr Stinney, what would be the result? Again, none of us have the power to bring that 14-year-old child back."
Mullen acknowledged how the case was unusual.
"No one here can justify a 14-year-old child being charged, tried, convicted and executed in some 80 days," she said.
Relatives of one of the girls killed, Betty June Binnicker, have said they do not want the case revisited without good reason.
Stinney is the youngest person to be executed in the US in the past 100 years.
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