This story is true, names have been changed to protect the innocent, other names are real to allow you to examine the cruelty of a broken system or to allow the reader to examine the actions of real persons.
The Ballad of George Stinney Jr
George was being held by his arm. It was his court-appointed lawyer. He hadn’t told him his name. He was wearing a snappy grey suit. Black shoes and a red tie. His hair was neatly quaffed back, he was blond. The Man hadn’t said a word to him. George considered that the only thing that stood between him and freedom was this man’s hand. He knew he could slip out of his grip. But he had these chains on his wrists and feet. He wouldn’t be able to get far. He couldn’t go home. You see it wasn’t home really, it was a house for employees of the sawmill. He prayed that his family already fled before the mob came to get him. George and his lawyer were standing in the hallway. People were passing by George, stealing angry glances at him. He held his head low. He didn’t want to see them. He knew even under normal circumstances he would have ever been allowed to be in this room. He may have been allowed to come through the back, as a servant. Even still, he wouldn’t have been able to come into this room. Unless it was closed and he was cleaning it. The floor was marble, the ceiling vaulted. There was a bust of a mustachioed man on a pedestal. George just wanted to get this over with. He was tired of white people staring at him. He sighed. His lawyer looked at him. He raised his index finger to his lips to shush George.
The Lawyer pushed through two large double doors. There was a narrows aisle. On either side of him, George saw hundreds of people, all white. His family was not there, he felt relief in that. It was dangerous for them here. It was hot, the ceiling fans twirling noisily overhead. Even still many in this audience had hand fans. When he came in the door. He felt the heat of a spotlight. All eyes were on him. Not one of them friendly. George lowered his head. He could feel their animus. The Sheriff sat to George’s left as he walked by, the Sheriff was sweating and he seemed to be wearing the same clothes as the last time George saw him. He smiled as if greeting a friend. He waved his cream-colored hat in his face. This was a nightmare. The Lawyer walked beside George. But he may as well have been alone. They went to a large wood table in the center-right of the room. The Lawyer pulled out the chair for George and then pushed it in once he sat down. The Lawyer sat down and didn’t speak to George.
What was the point of this? He knew instinctively that this was all fake. It was for them, he may as well not have even been there. He hoped against hope that maybe they would see that all of this was wrong. They would realize that he was innocent and that they would set him free. But he didn’t believe it. Not in the deep south. Not for one second. George bounced his foot anxiously. The jury came in, all white. They scrutinized George. A moment passed and the judge came in. The bailiff hooted. “All Rise.” George stood. The Judge came in looked around and sat. “Please be seated.” Everyone sat. I wish I could tell you that what happened next was at least deliberation, but I can’t. The Sheriff was called. He told the jury that George had admitted being sexually attracted to Rebecca and after many hours he first confessed to raping and then to both murders. They did not have a signed confession, but it didn’t seem to matter. The Sheriff then testified that they had taken George out of the police station, that he had guided them on how to get to the ditch where he dumped the bodies. He even produced the railroad spike which was the murder weapon. Then the prosecution had no further questions.
“Cross-examination?” The Judge said.
George’s lawyer stood. “I have no questions for this witness your honor.”
With that, the three officers who had stolen him away from the jail testified in succession. They corroborated the story of the Sheriff. The emphasized that when George spoke of the murders he was remorseless. They testified that they were in the room when George confessed. George’s father wouldn’t have cursing in his house, but more than once George said to himself.
The prosecution had no further questions.
“Cross-examination?” The Judge said.
George’s lawyer stood. “I have no questions for this witness.”
Which really meant that he had no questions at all. The prosecution rested their case. The judge asked my lawyer to call his first witness.
But he said. “The defense rests, your honor.”
The jury went to deliberate. Everything was worse than he imagined, he had considered a life behind bars, whatever that meant, he had thought that his final moments he would be surrounded in white men under a large tree with a rope about his neck. That at one moment or the other it would happen, suddenly. That’s not what was happening. They were going to make his killing legal. The chair, he realized. It took the jury ten minutes to come back. He stood as his fate was read. The verdict was guilty, the sentence was death by the electric chair. George showed no emotion. He heard the Lord’s prayer echoing in his mind. It was his father’s voice reading it. Not his own. It strengthened him for the time being, despite the swarm of butterflies in his stomach and his legs threatening to buckle.