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A man claiming to have shared a jail cell with George Stinney, Jr. in 1944 has come forward.
Wilford ‘Johnny’ Hunter tells theGrio.com’s Todd Johnson he was serving time for car theft in a South Carolina jail when he met Stinney for the first time.
On June 16, 1944, the 14-year-old teen became the youngest person executed in the 20th century. Stinney was tried and convicted of murdering two white girls in Alcolu, South Carolina. He was sentenced to die by electrocution after a trial which lasted only a few hours.
No appeal was filed.
Hunter said Stinney told him in jail he didn’t commit the crime.
“He said ‘Johnny, I didn’t do it, I didn’t do it,'” Hunter said of his conversation with Stinney. “He said ‘Why would they want to kill me for something I didn’t do?'”
Hunter, 87, was born and raised in South Carolina. He’s lived in New York since 1947.
“For years…I used to have dreams,” Hunter said. “About [Stinney] and the electric chair.”
He said Stinney and him became friends during the “few days” they spent in a cell in Sumter County, South Carolina. Hunter said he called Stinney “the kid” because he looked so young and frail. Hunter said the two would “play-wrestle,” and he even gave Stinney a hair cut.
“He would open up to me,” Hunter said of Stinney. “He looked upon me as a big brother.”
MSNBC | Lawyers continue push to clear George Stinney’s name (VIDEO)
A group of South Carolina lawyers have recently filed a motion asking a judge to grant Stinney a new trial and a chance to posthumously clear his name. The 27-page motion cites a lack of physical evidence and due process as reasons Stinney should receive another day in court.
The motion also includes two sworn statements from Stinney’s two surviving siblings, who say George was with family completing chores at the time of the murders and could not have committed the crime.
Hunter said Stinney told him a similar story in jail.
Hunter would have likely been the last person to talk with Stinney alive. He said he believes Stinney should be completely exonerated by the state.
“He was a kid,” Hunter said. “And what happened to him shouldn’t have happened. Shouldn’t have happened.”
TheGrio | Brother of 14-year-old execution victim speaks (VIDEO)
Last month, a spokesman for the South Carolina Attorney General’s Office told the Associated Press their lawyers would have no comment because the Stinney case is “pending.” A hearing date to review the motion is expected before the end of the year.
Follow theGrio.com’s Correspondent Todd Johnson on Twitter @rantoddj