The youngest person executed in America was Hannah Ocuish, who was only 12 years old. When we are talking about executions, we are talking about legally enforced and recognised by the state. Regardless on the stance you take on capital punishment, to take the life of someone so young, and technically still a child, is disgraceful. So who was the youngest person executed in America, and what was their crime?
Hannah Ocuish, a 12 year old native American met the hangman’s noose on 20 December, 1786. Young Hannah was hanged in Connecticut for the crime of killing another child, six year old Eunice Bolles, whom she had fought with the previous summer. The apparent motive for the murder was revenge after fighting over some strawberries. When little Eunice’s body was discovered, Hannah denied any connection with her death. The local law enforcement didn’t believe her, and took her to the badly beaten body of Eunice. Upon seeing her, Hannah confessed to the crime of murder. It was a crime that would see her hang.
While Hanna remains to this day the youngest person executed in America, and it will most likely remain that way, other children have faced similar gruesome fates. Even in the 20th century children have been sent to their end at the demand of the state.
James Arcene, another native American holds the distinction of being the youngest person to ever be condemned to death. At the age of only 10 or 11, James was sentenced to death for the crime of robbery and murder. While he was sentenced to death at a very young age, he didn’t meet his fate until he was 23 years old in 1885.
This disturbing trend of committing children to death continued into the 20th century. Fortune Ferguson was sentenced to death at the age of 13 for rape. He was executed three years later at the still young age of 16 in 1927. But in 1944 South Carolina set the record straight for capital punishment minimum age with the execution of George Stinney.
In March 1944, two girls, aged 8 and 11 were found murdered near where 14 year old George Stinney lived. He became the prime suspect as the girls had reportedly asked him for directions to some flowers. George was arrested for murder, and his family were forced to flee or face an angry white mob bating for blood.
With his family fleeing to safety, George endured 81 days incarcerated and a short trial all by himself. An ordeal for anyone, let alone a 14 year old teenager. When we say short trial, we mean short trial. The criminal trial of George Stinney lasted only 2 hours, with a conviction of the double homicide confirmed. He was sentenced to death, which was carried out later that year on 16 June, 1944 by electrocution. Reports from the time state that he carried a bible into the chamber with him, which he later used as a booster to fit the adult frame of the electric chair.