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Judge reconsidering teen's 1944 execution

8:03 AM, Jan 23, 2014   |    comments
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SUMTER, SC (WLTX) - The hearing to determine if a 14-year-old executed 70 years ago should get a new trial has completed, but a decision in the case likely won't be made until next month.

Day two of proceedings were held Wednesday in the case of George Stinney Jr. Previous Coverage: Day One of Stinney Hearing

In 1944, Stinney was convicted of killing 11-year-old Betty Binnicker and 7-year-old Mary Emma Thames in the Clarendon County town of Alcolu. He then was executed in the electric chair.

The girls were white, and Stinney was black.

For years, there have been questions if the original trial was fair. Stinney's supporters say the young man was forced to confess, didn't have proper counsel, and wasn't allowed to have his parents around when he was questioned. Many of the records in the case, including the confession, have been lost.

The judge in the hearing, Carmen Mullen, made it clear the proceeding would not to determine if Stinney Jr. was innocent or guilty.

One of the key pieces of evidence used to convict Stinney was a confession he gave to law enforcement. That document no longer exists in any public records.

On Wednesday the court heard from a child psychiatrist who said the confession, no matter what it said, is "not reliable."

Dr. Amanda Salas, a defense witness, said she reviewed what few documents remained from the case and interviewed Stinney family members to make her evaluation.

Salas testified that Stinney was likely suggestible to the white prosecutors and law enforcement who were there for his confession. She also said Stinney grew up in a culture and in a family that encouraged strict compliance to whites, which may have caused Stinney to "cave" when questioned by the adults.

"The confession...is best characterized as a coerced, compliant, false confession," Salas said.

Third District Solicitor Chip Finney, who's argued against a new trial, asked Salas why she did not consult media reports about the case over the years, school records on Finney, or interview family members of the two victims in the case.

The court also heard testimony from Frankie Dyches, the niece of Binnicker. She said she thinks the verdict rendered seven decades ago was fair and needs to be left "as is."

After testimony and arguments, the judge said she'd give both sides 10 days to file briefs. It's not clear how long after that point it might take for a decision to be made.

(Copyright Gannett 2014)

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