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The Insanity of Sex Laws

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All week I’ve been wanting to blog about the case of Genarlow Wilson, but time’s slipped away, and here it is already Thursday…so I’m posting below a letter I received from the committee working to free him from a Georgia jail. Read it and weep. And write letters of support. I hope to comment further on this case next week. –MS

At a New Year’s Eve party in 2003, Genarlow Wilson had consensual oral sex with another teen—she was 15 and he was 17. Under an old Georgia law, he was convicted of aggravated child molestation, a charge intended for adult sexual predators, and sentenced to a mandatory minimum 10 years in prison. If Wilson had engaged in sexual intercourse with the same girl, it would have been a misdemeanor under an exemption for contact between minors. No one, from his teen “victim” to the jurors at his trial, wanted Wilson to go to jail, but at every turn the Georgia justice system and Georgia legislature failed him—convicting him under an archaic Georgia law; passing a law that could have freed him but not applying it retroactively; and then blocking a second bill that would have allowed for Wilson’s release.Two weeks ago, a judge finally dismissed the sentence of Genarlow Wilson. Immediately after the ruling Thurbert Baker, Georgia’s Attorney General, appealed it—leaving Wilson stuck in jail.

Baker’s actions have not only robbed Wilson of his long overdue freedom, they epitomize the insanity of a justice system that seems hell-bent on criminalizing young Black men. The New York Times, former President Jimmy Carter, the NAACP and more than 20,000 ColorOfChange members have called for Wilson to be released. Can you join us in calling on the Attorney General to withdraw his appeal now?

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It’s hard to believe that race is not a factor in this case. According to the NAACP, around the same time that Wilson was sentenced, a high school teacher was convicted of having sex with a student. The white female teacher was sentenced to just 90 days in the same Georgia courthouse that sentenced Wilson to 10 years. While Wilson’s prosecutor claimed that he was “standing up for African-American victims in this case,” he hardly seems credible, since the “victim” did not want to press charges and did not even testify for the prosecution.

In his statement overturning Wilson’s sentence on Monday, Superior Court Judge Thomas Wilson said: “If any case fits into the definitive limits of a miscarriage of justice, surely this case does.” Why, then, is Georgia’s Black Attorney General trying to keep Wilson in jail? Baker says he’s compelled to appeal, but as Attorney General, it is completely at his discretion. He’s ignoring the outrage of nearly everyone associated with the case, and thousands of Americans across the country, by keeping this innocent young black man in jail.

Clearly, justice is not being served by Wilson’s continued incarceration. Join us in telling Attorney General Baker to withdraw his appeal and allow Genarlow Wilson to go home once and for all.

Thank You and Peace,

— James, Van, Clarissa, Gabriel, and the rest of the ColorOfChange.org team
June 15th, 2007
Judge Throws Out Sentence in Teen Sex Case, New York Times, June 11, 2007

Last Minute Appeal in teen sex case causes outrage, CNN.com, June 12, 2007

The Harsh Wages of Sin: Why Genarlow Wilson is Languishing in Prison

Genarlow Wilson waits in prison as his release is challenged, Atlanta Journal-Constitution, 6-11-07

Man Waits in Prison Despite Court’s Release, ABC.com, 6-13-07

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One response »

  1. I completely agree, I read about this case in the New York Times and I was shocked. This is an example of an almost unbelievable level of stupidity in law making and application. I’m glad you’re drawing attention to the matter.

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