Prosecutor: New trial not needed for executed boy

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Katherine Stinney Robinson, 79, sister of George Stinney, testifies during the hearing Tuesday, Jan. 21, 2014, at the Sumter (S.C.) County Judicial Center in Sumter, S.C. George Stinney, a 14-year-old black boy executed nearly 70 years ago is finally getting another day in court, as his lawyers argue for a new trial, saying his conviction was tainted by the segregationist-era justice system and scant evidence. Stinney was found guilty in 1944 of killing two white girls, ages 7 and 11. The trial lasted less than a day in the tiny Southern mill town of Alcolu, separated, as most were in those days, by race. (AP Photo/The Item, Bristow Marchant)

Katherine Stinney Robinson, 79, sister of George Stinney, testifies during the hearing Tuesday, Jan. 21, 2014, at the Sumter (S.C.) County Judicial Center in Sumter, S.C. George Stinney, a 14-year-old black boy executed nearly 70 years ago is finally getting another day in court, as his lawyers argue for a new trial, saying his conviction was tainted by the segregationist-era justice system and scant evidence. Stinney was found guilty in 1944 of killing two white girls, ages 7 and 11. The trial lasted less than a day in the tiny Southern mill town of Alcolu, separated, as most were in those days, by race. (AP Photo/The Item, Bristow Marchant)

FILE – This undated file photo provided by the South Carolina Department of Archives and History shows George Stinney Jr., the youngest person ever executed in South Carolina, in 1944. Supporters of Stinney plan to argue Tuesday, Jan. 21, 2014, that there wasn’t enough evidence to find him guilty in 1944 of killing a 7-year-old and an 11-year-old girl. The black teen was found guilty of killing the white girls in a trial that lasted less than a day in the tiny Southern mill town of Alcolu, separated, as most were in those days, by race. (AP Photo/South Carolina Department of Archives and History, File)

South Carolina Third Circuit Solicitor Ernest “Chip” Finney III, left, speaks with Steve McKenzie, a partner in the firm representing the Stinney family, before a hearing Tuesday morning, Jan. 21, 2014, at the Sumter (S.C.) County Judicial Center in Sumter, S.C. George Stinney, a 14-year-old black boy executed nearly 70 years ago is finally getting another day in court, as his lawyers argue for a new trial, saying his conviction was tainted by the segregationist-era justice system and scant evidence. Stinney was found guilty in 1944 of killing two white girls, ages 7 and 11. The trial lasted less than a day in the tiny Southern mill town of Alcolu, separated, as most were in those days, by race. (AP Photo/The Item, Bristow Marchant)

Spectators filled both courtrooms for a hearing Tuesday morning, Jan. 21, 2014, at the Sumter (S.C.) County Judicial Center in Sumter, S.C. George Stinney, a 14-year-old black boy executed nearly 70 years ago is finally getting another day in court, as his lawyers argue for a new trial, saying his conviction was tainted by the segregationist-era justice system and scant evidence. Stinney was found guilty in 1944 of killing two white girls, ages 7 and 11. The trial lasted less than a day in the tiny Southern mill town of Alcolu, separated, as most were in those days, by race. (AP Photo/The Item, Bristow Marchant)

FILE – This undated file photo provided by the South Carolina Department of Archives and History shows George Stinney Jr., the youngest person ever executed in South Carolina, in 1944. Supporters of Stinney plan to argue Tuesday, Jan. 21, 2014, that there wasn’t enough evidence to find him guilty in 1944 of killing a 7-year-old and an 11-year-old girl. The black teen was found guilty of killing the white girls in a trial that lasted less than a day in the tiny Southern mill town of Alcolu, separated, as most were in those days, by race. (AP Photo/South Carolina Department of Archives and History, File)

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SUMTER, S.C. (AP) — The judge, prosecutor and defense lawyers all agree that justice, at least by today’s standards, wasn’t carried out 70 years ago when a 14-year-old black boy was sent to the electric chair for killing two white girls.

But figuring out exactly what happened in March 1944 may be elusive, they said during the first day of a hearing into whether the boy, George Stinney, should get a new trial. People who attended the original trial have died and most of the evidence, including a transcript of the trial, has disappeared.

Stinney was found guilty of killing 11-year-old Betty Binnicker and 7-year-old Mary Emma Thames just over a month after their bodies were found beaten in the head and left in a water-filled ditch. The trial lasted less than a day in the tiny Southern mill town of Alcolu, separated, as most were in those days, by race. His lawyers argued his conviction was tainted by racism and scant evidence.

Nearly all the evidence, including Stinney’s confession, has vanished. Lawyers working on behalf of Stinney’s family have gathered new evidence, including sworn statements from his relatives accounting for his whereabouts the day the girls were killed and from a pathologist disputing the autopsy findings.

But that evidence depends mostly on the unreliability of the human memory. Stinney’s younger sister, who was 7 at the time, testified 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, Amie Ruffner struggled to remember details of a 2009 sworn statement she gave.

“If you can’t remember what you wrote down in 2009, why should we believe that you can believe something that happened in 1944?” prosecutor Ernest “Chip” Finney III said.

Circuit Judge Carmen Mullen

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