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US Black Youth Sentenced for Consensual Oral Sex Freed at Last

by Medindia Content Team on October 29, 2007 at 11:23 AM
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US Black Youth Sentenced for Consensual Oral Sex Freed at Last

The ten-year prison sentence of the Black youth Genarlow Wilson for consensual oral sex amounted to cruel and unusual punishment, the Georgian Supreme Court ruled Friday and ordered him released. The young man has already spent two years behind bars in the case, sparking off widespread protests of racism and heavy handed justice.

In its 4-3 decision, the Georgia Supreme Court noted that state lawmakers had scrapped the law that required a minimum 10-year prison term.

That change, the court said, represented "a seismic shift in the legislature's view of the gravity of oral sex between two willing teenage participants."

The justices also said Wilson's sentence made "no measurable contribution to acceptable goals of punishment," and his crime did not rise to the "level of adults who prey on children."

The conviction of Genarlow Wilson jailed in 2005 after being found guilty of child molestation for consensual oral sex with a 15-year-old black girl was cited as an example of the excesses in the US law.

After he was imprisoned, Wilson became the subject of prominent editorials and national news broadcasts. His sentence was denounced even by members of the jury that convicted him and the author of the 1995 law that put him in prison.

At the time of Wilson's conviction, Georgia state law said the consent of both parties was a mitigating factor in sentencing -- but only if they were engaged in conventional, not oral, sex.

Wilson was sentenced to 10 years in jail and had his name included on the sex offenders register.

Once you're on the registry, it's for life in Georgia.

US state and federal laws have long required those convicted of a sex offense -- which can include everything from indecent exposure to sexual assault -- to add their names to a sex offenders' registery.

The US Department of Justice has launched a public, Internet-based registry, which lists sex offenders in all 50 states.

Those on the registry are subject to severe restrictions on where they live or work, and have to inform the police when they move.

There is even a provision that says those listed on the Georgia sex offenders' registry cannot live or loiter within 1,000 feet (300 metres) of where children congregate.

"Genarlow Wilson is of an age where the law says he is expected to respect her youthfulness," Douglas County District Attorney David McDade had said.

But many others including former President Jimmy Carter said the case raised troubling questions about race and the justice system. Wilson and the girl are both black.

The man who prosecuted Wilson, the Douglas County District Attorney, said he disagreed with the Supreme Court decision, but he respected the court "as the final arbiter."

"I was in total disbelief," Wilson told reporters outside the prison. "I'm finally happy to see we've got justice now." Wilson, 21, also said he wants to help other teens and offered some advice: "They should be very hesitant before they join certain crowds and make certain decisions."

"I never gave up hope in our judicial system, and I never gave up hope in all the prayers people sent out for us," said Wilson's mother, Juannessa Bennett.

Rep. John Lewis , an Atlanta Democrat, said: "Each day that this young man spent in prison was a day too long."

Wilson said he plans to return to school and sports and possibly study sociology. For now, he was looking forward to spending time with relatives.

"I feel I've been away from them long enough," he said. "At times, we've dealt with adversity. Now my family, we finally get to deal with happiness."

Source: Medindia

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