A case of assumed guilt and a never a thought of innocence...This is why we continue to fight
In the month of March 1944, George Stinney and his sister were playing as children do in the yard of their home located in South Carolina, when two adolescent white girls approached them asking where they could find flowers. After the quick encounter the two girls went on their way in search of the flowers, however, they never returned to their home, which led to the organization of a search party. 14 year old George joined the search party and innocently mentioned that he had seen the 2 girls the day before as a means to help. Unfortunately, the information was not taken lightly. The following day the 2 bodies of the girls were found in a ditch.
Upon the discovery of the bodies, George was accused of murder and taken into custody and was subjected to intense interrogation for hours without a parent or attorney. The officer who interrogated George eventually alleged that George had confessed to the murders, despite the fact that there was no written statement. The accusation sparked outrage and shattered the lives of the Stinney family, as their family endured endless threats. This resulted in the family leaving their home in the search for safety. Towards the end of March, March 26th to be specific an attempt was made to lynch George; the only reason it wasn't successful is because he was moved to a different jail out of state.
On April 24th George went to trial with no family by his side, all he had was his deficient attorney who didn't call any witnesses to the stand. His attorney failed him by not fighting hard enough, but I'm not sure the blame is on the lawyer as much as it is the system. His lawyer was appointed to him, which is good, however, his specialty was in tax law. The court did not allow any African Americans into the court room. The court relied heavily on the testimony of the interrogation officer that George had confessed.
It only took 10 minutes for the all white jury to come back with a guilty verdict. George was found guilty of rape and murder and he was sentenced to death by the judge at just 14 years old. African American groups attempted to reach Governor Olin Johnston for an appeal but he would not step in. George Stinney was executed on June 16,1944. This is why we continue to fight the broken criminal justice system, it isn't just the police who are killing us and treating us unfairly. Racism and inequality are deep rooted in the system; it is difficult to expect justice in a system that is bonded together by racism and protecting their own.
70 years later a two day hearing was held by a South Carolina judge which included hearing from George's siblings, other people who helped in the search for the girls, and expert witnesses. As if it wasn't bad enough that George Stinney had to go through this ordeal and ultimately lose his life, during this hearing the state admitted that their was unfairness in the trial but the conviction of George Stinney should stand. Fortunately, the judge at the hearing disagreed and stated that George faced great injustice.
In America it takes little to nothing for an African American to be deemed guilty of a crime. Due to the color of the skin of the accused being black they are presumed to be guilty and forced to prove their innocence, rather than the other way around. The burden is usually on the prosecution to prove that the accused is guilty beyond a reasonable doubt, however, in the case of African Americans they have to prove that they are innocent beyond a reasonable doubt. The most disheartening part is blacks aren't just fighting this fight in court, they are tasked with showing the world that they are in fact innocent when constantly accused of being guilty. We live in a world where people are quick to point a finger at and blame blacks for crimes. We live in a world where we are all assumed to be the same and can't be differentiated between because we have the same color skin. How is it that we live in a world where an entire race is deemed to be bad and criminal? We live in a world where it causes outrage if all cops are stereotyped as being bad, yet the entire African American race can be stereotyped as being criminals. How can people live with themselves knowing innocent lives are constantly taken either through loss of physical life or through being forced to live behind bars for inhumanely long times that are disproportionate to the crime committed?
How can African Americans ever be viewed as innocent when the color of our skin is deemed the greatest crime of all time?
We have to continue the fight for African Americans as a whole and for all of the past and future George Stinney's who deserve justice.