D is for Death Penalty

Unfortunately, in 1944 South Carolina, George Stinney wasn’t afforded the same opportunity.

Questions: Who was the youngest person executed in the 20th century in the United States? And what ever 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 travelled 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 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.


ABC Wednesday, Round 9

Author: Roger

I'm a librarian. i hear music, even when it's not being played. I used to work at a comic book store, and it still informs my life. I won once on JEOPARDY! - ditto.

20 thoughts on “D is for Death Penalty”

  1. An interesting post. It seems likely that Parliament will have to debate the possible reintroduction of the death penalty in the UK as a result of an online petition. The new government promised to debate the issue of any petition that could attract 100,000 signatures.

    The argument goes that there is popular support for capital punishment, although it hasn’t been tested through a referendum, just the letters pages of the popular press and angry website comments.

    But even if the petition is successful in forcing a debate, it is unlikely that the politicians would support it. Apart from the moral and ethical considerations, it would be contrary to European law.

  2. What a fascinating story, and I’ve had a Anne Perry book on my bookshelf for a few months, now I want to pull it down and start reading it, or maybe not…

  3. This is a topic on which I’m very torn. It’s horrific to execute someone who is found guilty but is really innocent. Likewise, I think it’s horrific to execute someone for a crime committed as a minor child. That said, I lean the other way for the Charles Mansons, Jeffrey Dahmers and Ted Bundys of the world.

  4. While I don’t know the specifics of how the penalties were chosen, I can say that the girls’ youth at the time of the crime made it more unlikely that they’d receive the death penalty. A bigger factor was probably the fact that only one woman was ever executed in New Zealand. The death penalty was abolished for the final time in 1961.

  5. It’s absolutely heartbreaking to me thinking of a 14 year old executed. Since I’ve always been against court sanctioned murder (that’s how I see the death penalty) I don’t want to see any executions but the idea of a juvenile is particularly barbaric.

  6. The letter D has brought out a most depressing topic, Roger. 🙂 It disheartens me that the debate still rages after all these years. I have always been determinedly against the death penalty. It appears to me that it has never ever been fairly applied.

  7. In the eyes of God, no one should be punished of death but in the eyes of those who became victim of cruelty, death penalty is appropriate.

  8. FASCINATING post. I wonder if race had anything to do with the two very different sentences. The lesson, regardless, is powerful.

  9. Morally and ethically it is “No” to death penalty I ‘d say and ….who decides??? ….it is we the people guided by a few lawmakers !! …..laws made by whom??? …….again it is we the people sitting as elected representatives??? …..and remember the lady with the scales, 🙁 aww…she is blindfolded and shows no humanism!! So life term is ok but the D-word is taboo for me juvenile or adult!!
    Good thought provoking D-post today ROG!!

  10. Interesting story. I can’t get on board with the death penalty. There are just too many inconsistencies in the judical process. And too many innocent people have died. If there was only 1 inocent put to death wrongly, that is one too many.

  11. Hello.
    The death penalty…a hot topic topic that will always be a subject of debate.

    Very interesting & informative post. Thanks for sharing.

    Thanks for the visit too. I appreciate it.

  12. I had no idea someone so young had been given the death penalty. That is heartbreaking. I hadn’t heard of those girls in New Zealand. Very interesting post!

  13. The USA is the only western civilized country which still uses death penality. I am against. I think being in prison for a whole life is far more punishment. Justice is not always right, too many errors have happened.

  14. Roger, you know, I believe, that as a pacifist I am against the death penalty. Too many skewed juries, too many slick lawyers, too much evidence planted… prison for life is the way to go, even with Charlie Manson, who is either insane or incredibly manipulative. Timothy McVeigh died thinking he was a martyr. It would have been better to let him sit on his butt a few years and think and be confronted by the horror he caused – and watch himself fade into obscurity, like Son of Sam is in Attica. It brings NO ONE back. Anyone want to read a poem on this, click the link. Amy
    http://sharplittlepencil.wordpress.com/2011/08/04/crucifixion-texas-style/

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