Questions: Who was the youngest person executed in the 20th century in the United States? And whatever possessed me to think about that?
Let me take the second question first. A friend and colleague recently saw the 1994 Oscar-nominated film Heavenly Creatures, directed by Peter Jackson. “Based on the true story of Juliet Hulme and Pauline Parker [Kate Winslet and Melanie Lynskey, both first-time movie actresses], two close friends who share a love of fantasy and literature, who conspire to kill Pauline’s mother when she tries to end the girls’ intense and obsessive relationship.”
Would it be a spoiler to note that the girls succeeded? You can read about the Parker-Hulme murder in New Zealand here. From that source:
The trial was a sensational affair…The girls were convicted on August 30, 1954, and each of them spent five years in prison. [Apparently, they were not subject to the death penalty.] They were released with the condition that they never contact each other again.
After her release from prison, Juliet Hulme traveled to the United States and went on to have a successful career as a historical detective novelist under her new name, Anne Perry. She has been a Mormon since about 1968. She now lives in Scotland.
Pauline Parker spent some time in New Zealand under close surveillance before being allowed to leave for England… She has become a Roman Catholic and for many years Parker had refused to give interviews surrounding the murder of her mother and expressed strong remorse about having killed her.
In March 2006, Perry said that while her relationship with Pauline Parker was obsessive, they were not lesbians.
The key point here is that, despite this terrible crime, there was a chance for redemption for these young murderers, and they seemed to have made the most of it.
Unfortunately, in 1944 South Carolina, George Junius Stinney Jr. wasn’t afforded the same opportunity, as he “was, at age 14, the youngest person executed in the United States in the 20th century. The question of Stinney’s guilt and the judicial process leading to his execution remain controversial.” To say the least; from his arrest to his execution by an ill-fitting electric chair device took less than three months.
As it turns out, no state has executed a minor since the 1976 ruling reinstating capital punishment in the United States. There have been juvenile offenders executed, but they were not minors by that time.