Lawyers to pursue lawsuit in 72-year-old wrongful conviction case

George Stinney

George Stinney was only 14 when he was convicted of murder and executed for a crime he didn’t do. A judge overturned his conviction in 2014 and now, Charleston School of Law students are studying how to get recourse in the 72-year-old case.

They are considering filing a lawsuit, though they say they have to do more research to see who the defendant could be.

School President Ed Bell said they’re working with Stinney’s siblings, who now live out of state.

“The family has always asked what can they do to help someone else who might be in a similar position,” Bell said.

Police notes, witness statements and even a rare photo showing Stinney on his way to his own execution all help fill in the blanks in the Jim-Crow-era case. The 17 students assigned to a special class will pour through the evidence to compile a plan.

“It may be a hollow victory, that there’s no one's money to be collected. But the fact is, we’ve got to figure out a way in our society to take these wrongs and learn from them,” Bell said.

Bell says he hoped the case could also change state law to give those who are wrongfully convicted a way to get compensation; 30 states, including NorthCarolina and Alabama, already have a similar statute, according to the Innocence Project.

He also said it could apply to more recent cases involving wrongful arrests.

“Not to damn the police but not to also forget the victims. There’s a balance that has to take place. We think this case will help figure this out and give us guidance for the future," Bell said.

School officials said they would probably file the lawsuit in federal court, meaning the case would have a three-year statute of limitations. That would give lawyers until December 2017.

The family would probably not get any money since all involved parties are dead, Bell said.

There is still a chance they will not file anything.

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