Another case of justice miscarried is being played out in Georgia where Genarlow Wilson has been sent to prison for a decade for consensual sex with a girl not much younger than himself. He has been there for over 2 years. Genarlow is a 17 year old star football player and honor student who went to a wild party. At the party were two girls, one 17 and one 15. Also present was a video camera. The police found the footage after the 17 year old claimed she was raped. The video tape suggested otherwise. The 15 year old was giving oral sex to a substantial number of boys present (all except Wilson accepted pleas). Due to a quirk in the law because the conduct involved oral sex rather than "regular" sex, Genarlow faced the ten year sentence. "Regular sex" would have been a misdemeanor.
ABC Primetime reports that
He stood trial in February 2005 for five days. And at first, the jury's deliberations moved swiftly. Jurors voted to acquit Wilson of raping the 17-year-old.
"I mean it wasn't even an hour," said jury forewoman Marie Manigault. "We immediately saw the tape for what it was. We went back and saw it again and saw what actually happened and everybody immediately said not guilty."
But there was one other charge the jury had to decide on. The second girl in the videotape was 15, and the age of consent in Georgia is 16. And under state law, prosecutors charged Wilson with aggravated child molestation. To those close to the young man, it was an outrage.
"Nobody could believe that this is the law," Mann said.
Even jurors frowned on the charge. "A bad law, absolutely," Manigault said.
And in Georgia, that they'd had oral sex made matters worse. Until 1998, oral sex between husband and wife was illegal, punishable by up to 20 years in prison. In Wilson's case, even though he is only two years older than the girl, she was 15 and — willing or not — could not consent legally that night.
Whatever their feelings about the law, jurors felt they had no choice but to find Wilson guilty of aggravated child molestation. Moments later, back in the jury room, jurors were told for the first time that the conviction came with a mandatory sentence of at least 10 years in prison. In addition, Wilson would be forced to register as a sex offender for the rest of his life.
"Yet no one will do anything to free him, passing responsibility around like a hot potato. The prosecutors say they were just doing their job. The Supreme Court says it couldn't free him because the state legislature decreed the new law didn't apply to old cases, even though this case was the entire reason the new law was passed." [ME: and of course no legislator wants to be seen as soft on crime-especially sex offenders]
In December,the Georgia Supreme Court rejected Genarlow's motion for reconsideration. Sex Offender Issues reports that the "code was amended last July to treat consensual oral sex between teenagers no more than four years apart as a misdemeanor, the same punishment given for consensual intercourse between teenagers." Law.com reports on efforts in the Georgia legislature for a bill to allow re sentencing.
Legal Blog Roundup on the Wilson case:
- Blog Maverick (the Mark Cuban Blog)
- Sex Offender Issues reports on a delay in a Georgia effort to allow adjustment of the sentence
UPDATE: Sentencing Law and Policy reports on an Atlanta Constitution-Journal article on an outbreak of name calling between the defense and members of the Georgia legislature.