Back in January, I wrote a post called “Southern Justice: Travesty Squared in Georgia” about a black teenager named Genarlow Wilson who was given an incredibly harsh sentence for a technical infraction of the law because a prosecutor got pissy when Wilson wouldn’t accept a plea bargain arrangement and forced him to go to trial. Voices were raised in Genarlow’s defense, including ESPN’s (Wilson was a well-known high school athlete). One commenter wrote:
It’s disgusting. I can not see any way, shape or form that the interests of the state of Georgia are served by throwing away Genarlow’s youth and opportunity to become a vibrant contributor to the state. All his situation does is reinforce some unfortunate stereotypes that the state is backward and misgoverned. No one with a conscience can look at this case and conclude that justice has been served.
Well, today a judge ordered Genarlow Wilson be freed.
A judge today ordered that Genarlow Wilson be freed from prison, where he has spent more than two years for receiving consensual oral sex from a 15-year-old girl when he was 17.
Monroe County Superior Court Judge Thomas Wilson also amended Wilson’s felony conviction to a misdemeanor without the requirement that he register as a sex offender.
Wilson’s lawyer, B.J. Bernstein, appealed to a judge Wednesday to free him from prison, arguing that his 10-year prison sentence and inclusion on the state’s sex offender registry is grossly disproportionate and violates the Constitution.
Bernstein also pointed to how the Legislature changed the law since Wilson’s conviction to make similar acts a misdemeanor punishable by a maximum of one year in prison. Wilson, now 21, has been locked up for more than two years.
“It truly is cruel and unusual punishment,” Bernstein told reporters last week. “It is wrong when the Legislature has passed the law to make this a misdemeanor with no sex offender registry [requirement] and instead the state is trying to keep this young man in prison for 10 years and on the sex offender registry.”
The prosecution is still arguing that the law doesn’t allow his release, and there’s no word yet from the Georgia AG’s office on whether or not the state will actually release him or appeal the decision.
Let’s hope they let it lie. This travesty of justice has gone far enough.