Jan. 6, 1962 - In Georgia’s Reidsville Prison, a 15-year-old Negro boy, Preston Cobb Jr., is under sentence of death for killing a 70-year-old white farmer. There have been protests and appeals from all over the world. The issue is not the boy’s guilt but his age, and the state’s legal right to execute a child. In Georgia, the death penalty can be given to a child as young as 10. But Georgia is not alone in that category. All 50 states possess the power and authority to try children as adults — and give them the same punishment as adults — in cases of capital crimes. Sometimes the system delivers death; most times, prison sentences that in some cases amount to living death. At least 70 teenagers have been executed in the last half century. The youngest was a Negro boy of 14, George Stinney Jr., who was electrocuted for murder June 16, 1944, in South Carolina. There is a growing movement in Georgia to raise to 18 the age limit of persons liable to capital punishment. Gov. S. Ernest Vandiver — who has no clemency powers — has expressed belief that the state pardon and parole board would commute young Cobb’s death sentence if such a law was enacted.
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