Katherine Stinney Robinson was just 10 when her 14-year-old brother George Julius Stinney Jr. was arrested, convicted and ultimately executed for the murder of two Alcolu girls in 1944.
Now 80, she said Wednesday that she is grateful God has let her live long enough to see her brother's name exonerated.
"I think it's long overdue," she said. "I'm just thrilled because it's overdue."
Circuit Court Judge Carmen T. Mullen vacated Stinney's conviction Wednesday in an order signed Tuesday granting Stinney family attorneys' writ of coram nobis, a rare legal doctrine held over from English law that "corrects errors of fact" when no other remedy is available to the applicant.
Stinney was accused of the bludgeoning deaths of Mary Emma Thames, 7, and Betty June Binnicker, 11.
"We believe that was the only vehicle with which we had a stone's chance of getting this conviction overturned," said attorney Ray Chandler, who worked with attorneys Steve McKenzie and Matt Burgess and Charleston School of Law professor Miller Shealy Jr.
"A write of coram nobis must be allowed," Mullen wrote, quoting case law, "When a conviction is wrongful because it is based on an error of face or was obtained by unfair or unlawful methods and no other corrective judicial remedy is available."
Mullen cited Stinney's age at the time of conviction and execution as a leading factor in her decision. She also cited testimony from a hearling earlier this year that a confession from the young boy showed signs of coercion.
"We've always thought he was innocent," Robinson said. "We've always tried to do something to make everyone understand that an injustice was done to this child. But there was nothing we could do about it. No one was listening, until today."
Robinson spoke with The Manning Times via telephone, along with daughter Norma Robinson, saying that the entire episode is a tragedy for all involved.
"I was a child and knew what happened, that my brother didn't do it, and I've been upset that these families believe he did," Robinson said. "How could they think that a child that small could commit a crime like that? I wish they would find the true killers. I think it's sad for those babies. But why would you think babies are killing babies? My brother was small in stature and under 100 pounds, yet he was accused of such a crime?"
Norma Robinson, who never knew her uncle, said she's "grateful that God spared my mother, my aunt and my uncle to see this come forth."
Stinney has three siblings still living: Robinson, Amie Ruffner and Bishop Charles Stinney.
"We've always felt bad about the girls being killed, and always wondered why they don't want to know the truth," Norma said. "I would want to know, if someone's saying my family member's killer is innocent, then who did do the murders? The fact remains the girls were killed by someone, but it just wasn't my uncle."
Norma said at the outset the family always wanted an exoneration, not a pardon.
"There's a difference: A pardon is forgiving someone for something they did," Norma said. "That wasn't an option for my mother, my aunt or my uncle. We weren't asking forgiveness."
Both women said their only regret is that they "can't be in South Carolina to help all of our supporters celebrate."
"We are grateful for those who have stood by us and have kept his name out at the forefront," she said. "We hope to get down there soon to meet with these great people."
Manninglive.com will continue to have updates as we speak to more folks involved in the case.