Monday, June 11, 2007

You Gotta Know When To Hold 'Em...

And when to fold 'em. In the case of the ill-advised prosecution of Genarlow Wilson, a then-17-year-old Black student with no criminal record sentenced to 10 years in prison for engaging in consensual oral sex with a 15-year-old girl, it's time to close up shop.

For a brief moment, it looked like Wilson was going to go free. A district judge ruled that his 10 year sentence was a violation of cruel and unusual punishment. But, unbelievably, the prosecutor state has announced an appeal, thus keeping Wilson in prison for the time being. I argued from the start that this was a case about prosecutorial discretion--specifically, the misuse thereof. The prosecutor, who was White, had been extraordinarily lenient with certain similar crimes having White defendants. "Crimes" like this should never be prosecuted in the first place. But the DA's office continuing the fight up through the appellate level is crossing the line from poor judgment to what can only be described as a vendetta. Trying to hold on to Genarlow Wilson is, at this point, obscene. This is the type of prosecutor that makes Mike Nifong look like Atticus Finch (I assume we will see similar calls for public and legal sanction against him).

I hope Wilson is freed, and soon. And hope that the Georgia political establishment does take a close look at the prosecutor who is driving this travesty against justice.

Other views:

Sentencing Law & Policy

Radley Balko


UPDATE: I'm informed that the State AG, who now has jurisdiction over the case and who announced the appeal is an African-American Democrat. An intriguing fact that does not make his decision any less disgusting (and all the more inexplicable).


Patrick said...

Honestly, the decision doesn't surprise me at all. Georgia is quickly becoming a one-party system in state elections again -- the only Democrats who won statewide positions last year were incumbents such as AG Thurbert Baker. It seems to me that it's more of a political calculation by Baker than anything else -- tough on child molesters and all that.

Even though the Republican General Assembly and governor voted to make the same act a misdemeanor. I almost wish I hadn't voted for the guy.

PG said...

What would you consider to be the proper legal sanction against a prosecutor who broke no rules, but exercised discretion in deciding whether to pursue a victim-less charge along with a victim-ed one (the 17 year old girl who alleged rape)? I think the discretion was exercised inappropriately at the trial level, and it's now just flat out crazy to pursue an appeal to keep Wilson in jail, but I don't understand how this is comparable to Nifong, who actually broke the rules on exchanging evidence in order to hide exculpatory evidence from the defense.