Wednesday, June 27, 2007

Justice on summer vacation in Georgia

Genarlow Wilson is not eligible for bond according Judge David Emerson of the Douglas County Superior Court in Georgia. Wilson was convicted of aggravated child molestation for having consensual oral sex with a 15-year old woman when he was 17-years old. He was sentenced to ten years in prison and a lifetime registration as a sex offender. A story of the incident can be found in Atlanta Magazine.

After having served 27 months behind bars another judge reduced the sentence to reflect the change in Georgia’s law that occurred after (and largely because of) his conviction. If he and the young woman had engaged in consensual sexual intercourse the “Romeo and Juliet” exception to the law would have applied and he would have been guilty of a simple misdemeanor. However, oral sex with a minor – even when they are only two years apart in age – carried a ten year mandatory prison sentence.

The Georgia legislature changed the law but did not make it retroactive. The state appealed the ruling reducing the sentence making it consistent with the law. The hearing on Wednesday was to determine bond for Wilson’s release while the case works its way through the courts.

This is from the Atlanta Journal-Constitution about Wednesday’s ruling:
A Douglas County judge ruled Wednesday Genarlow Wilson is not eligible for bond in his child molestation case, a development that could keep Wilson behind bars for at least several more months pending an appeal.

Superior Court Judge David Emerson issued an order canceling a July 5 bond hearing for Wilson. He cited a state law that prohibits appeal bonds for people convicted of Wilson's crime -- aggravated child molestation -- and who have been sentenced to five years or more in prison. Wilson is now serving a 10-year prison sentence.

"As the court has no authority to grant an appeal bond in this case, there is no need for an evidentiary hearing on the defendant's eligibility for a bond," Emerson wrote in his three-page order. "The motion for bond is dismissed. The hearing scheduled for July 5, 2007, is therefore cancelled."

Civil rights officials reacted angrily to Emerson's ruling.

"The NAACP is convinced that justice has taken a summer vacation in Georgia," said Dr. Francys Johnson, the organization's Southeast Regional Director.

Wilson was convicted of aggravated child molestation for receiving oral sex from the 15-year-old girl at a 2003 New Year's Eve party. The age of consent in Georgia is 16. The law at the time required a minimum 10-year prison sentence for the crime.

The Legislature, however, changed the law last year to make the same offense a misdemeanor, punishable by up to a year in prison. Wilson, now 21, has served more than two years of his sentence.

This month, a Monroe County Superior Court judge threw out Wilson's prison sentence and reduced his conviction to a misdemeanor, calling his case a "grave miscarriage of justice." In making his ruling, the judge granted an appeal from Wilson's attorneys, who argued his prison sentence is cruel and unusual punishment under the Constitution.

Baker has appealed the Monroe County judge's decision to the Georgia Supreme Court, arguing the judge overstepped his authority.

Baker filed a request for an expedited review by the court, but the court rejected his request last week. The earliest date the case could come before the court is October. And it could take until April of next year to be decided.

Judge Emerson had scheduled the July 5 hearing to decide whether Wilson should be freed on bond pending the appeal. Douglas County District Attorney David McDade and Wilson's attorney, B.J. Bernstein, did not immediately respond to telephone calls for comment on Wednesday. Baker's office did not have an immediate comment.

However, McDade has previously argued Wilson is not eligible for bond since his crime is one of Georgia's so-called seven deadly sins. …


Robin Edgar said...

Justice on summer vacation in Montreal. . .

Anonymous said...

From a distance it is difficult to see much difference between the US judicial system and the Saudi's. Both systems promote ideologies (religious or sexual) over the rights of human beings