Law school credits students helping to right a wrongful execution
CHARLESTON, S.C. (WCIV) —
Local law students are trying to right the wrongs of a 72-year-old case involving a South Carolina teen convicted of murder and executed.
Charleston School Of Law officials say their students are getting class credit to do work that could help George Stinney's family and maybe make a statewide impact.
ABC News 4 had the only camera in the room for the first class. The assignment: figure out a way to remedy the wrongful conviction and execution of a 14-year-old in 1944.
"In today's world, some states have statutory schemes that allow innocent people wrongfully convicted a way to make up those years they spent in prison," said President Ed Bell. "South Carolina doesn't have that."
In fact, officials with the Innocence Project say South Carolina is one of just 19 states without a way to compensate the wrongfully convicted.
State Police advocate Amol Sinha works to change that.
"We can't put a monetary value on taking years away from someone's life and the effect that has on a family." Sinha said. "In our legal system, we use money as the common denominator when it comes to making people whole again."
But Charleston attorney Jason Luck disagrees. He says there are already laws on the books to address this.
"The mechanics are in place for someone to be compensated," he said. "If your federal civil rights are violated, then there are statutes available."
Sinha says the problem with that is defendants often have to prove the government intentionally messed up which is hard to do.
Still, Luck says his time is "better spent trying to help overturn more bad convictions." He says he wishes the state would create a fund for that.
"We need money to pay some people to do this work," he said. "Yes we could stand to have attorneys working on this but we can't work for free."
Luck points out the School of Law project is good in that it gives students pro bono experience, making them more likely to take up that work once they become lawyers.
School of Law officials say they didn't consider working on any active cases because everyone on South Carolina's death row had a chance for a new trial. Stinney does not and he still has living relatives.