The case of Genarlow Wilson is provides yet another reason that the general public should never blindly trust the government. This is true regardless of how strongly state legislators emphasize that their main goal is to protect their constituents from injustice and cruelty, including those constituents who happen to be accused of committing a crime.
Genarlow Wilson was convicted by a Georgia jury of aggravated child molestation for the crime of receiving oral sex from a consenting 15-year-old at a New Year’s Eve party. For this action, he received a mandatory state prison sentence of ten years, of which he served two. One of the ironies here is that, according to the applicable laws in Georgia at the time, if he had had sexual intercourse with the consenting 15 year old, he’d be facing only a misdemeanor. The other irony is that the state intervened and changed the law, defining underaged, consensual oral sex as a misdemeanor, but refused to grandfather Genarlow Wilson in. So he sat in prison.
Finally, on October 26, 2007, the Georgia State Supreme Court ruled that Genarlow’s 10-year term amounted to “cruel and unusual punishment,” and he was released after serving two of his 10 years in prison.
This is a very straightforward illustration of the peril of trusting the government in an unchecked fashion. I have been practicing criminal defense for nine years, and the assumption is always that the state is righteous, and my client is dreadfully in the wrong. Whether this is true or not is irrelevant; the important part to remember is that thorough, consistent checks on the state are the only way to ever come close to having a fair criminal justice system.