Mon. Jun 11, 2007
Shame on the Georgia Attorney General
You probably saw the jubilation on CNN today, as Genarlow Wilson’s mother and his lawyer, B.J. Bernstein, celebrated a judge’s ruling that voided his sentence, complete with a release order. It was quite a moment of joy for many.
But the state attorney general quickly filed a notice of appeal, keeping Genarlow Wilson in prison for the time being.
In a written statement, Georgia Attorney General Thurbert Baker said he filed the appeal to resolve “clearly erroneous legal issues,” saying that while the judge did have the authority to grant habeas relief, he did not have the authority “to reduce or modify the judgment of the trial court.”
Thurbert, if your name’s going to be on the ballot in November, 2008, you can expect me to vote for Mickey Mouse before I’ll vote to re-elect you. Of course, you did have some help from our State Legislature:
When he was 17 years old, he had a consensual sexual encounter with a 15-year-old girl, which was consensually videotaped.
Georgia law at the time made such an action a felony punishable by 10 years in prison and listing on the sex offender registry.
The state legislature later changed the law, partly in response to Wilson’s case. But the change was not made retroactive, leaving Wilson in jail. He has already served more than two years.
Remember when you were 17? I bet you probably had sex. Probably with a fellow teen. Remember when you were 19? Now wipe out everything in between, and imagine if you’d spent that formative time incarcerated. Hasn’t society taken enough from this man as “payment” for his “crime”?
And as for “partly in response,” that bill would have never made it to the floor of the House or Senate if not for Wilson’s specific case, and the attention many tried to bring to it. It was “directly in response.” The fact it was passed is an acknowledgement that the previous law was not fair in the way it was enforced. But they did not have the cojones to make it retroactive … as if the old law was any more “fair” for those who’d been sentenced under it in the past.
So the Douglas County DA made sure to point out that the legislature could have made it retroactive, but chose not to, and therefore it was full steam ahead. By Gum, this kid was going to stay in jail until the age of 27, for having consensual sex with a fellow teen at the age of 17. Or agree to their plea terms. Until this morning’s court ruling.
Now our state AG says the letter of the law has still has not been followed, and as a result Mr. Wilson may have to remain in jail.
Whatever happened to the spirit of the law? The judge seemed to recognize it this morning. But there’s at least a couple of prosecutors in this state who won’t bend their “letter” to that “spirit,” once again making our state appear to be a laughing stock of backwardness.
Have you ever noticed it is only the actions of our elected officials that make Georgia the butt of jokes? Not the actions of the citizens themselves?
I believe Governor Sonny Perdue has the power to issue a pardon for this specific case. I could be wrong, as one wonders why he hasn’t before. But now is the time for someone to show there are still reasonable human beings involved in this process, on the side of the state.
Today, there is no such sign.
Update, 6/13: The Governor’s office claims that he has no authority to grant a pardon (I would simply note that Pres. Bush has no authority to pass the immigration bill, but he’s lobbying hard with those who do). A (cursory) review of Georgia Board of Pardons and Paroles web site reveals no obvious option for timely relief from that route as well. Apparently there is simply no one in the employ of the state of Georgia who can or will do a damn thing to correct this injustice.