And while we’re doing updates, here is one on the Genarlow Wilson injustice I mentioned in “More Harm Than Good“.
The New York Times reported two days ago that a piece of legislation aimed at helping the young man is hung up in the Georgia General Assembly. According to the Times:
Senator Emanuel D. Jones, a Democrat, sponsored the legislation, which would make it possible for judges to reconsider the cases of hundreds of young adults, including Mr. Wilson, who are serving long mandatory minimum sentences in prison for having consensual sex with teenage minors. Mr. Jones said the bill was mysteriously left off the agenda of the Senate Judiciary Committee last week.
And on Monday, the Senate’s leader, Eric Johnson, publicly denounced the bill and said that although Mr. Wilson, now 20, was serving a harsh sentence, he deserved no leniency.
Remember, Genarlow Wilson was only 17 when he had consensual oral sex with a girl who was 15.
What troubles me most in the Times story is the change of heart apparently experienced by Senate Leader Johnson. Last year he supported legislation that made the kind of sex that Wilson had a misdemeanor instead of a felony, but now he rejects legislation that would allow Wilson’s case to be reconsidered in light of that very important legal change. His spokesperson, curiously, is quoted as explaining his change of heart this way:
“His line of thought is that we’ve already visited this instance once. If we were to go back, there would be hundreds of these cases that could be reopened, and there are victims in all of those cases.”
I think Mr. Johnson is confused about who the victims are. If we’re talking about consensual sex between minors, or between very young adults and minors (the law applies when the age difference is not more than 4 years), then the real victims are those who have been convicted of crimes. And if we want to help the victims, we should be letting judges revisit those cases. That’s what this legislation would allow.
If you live in Georgia, and perhaps even if you don’t, you might check out the Georgia General Assembly web site. If you’re a resident of Georgia write to your senator and your representative and urge them to do what they can to pass this legislation. And even if you aren’t a Georgia resident, consider writing to Senator Jones, telling him about your support for his legislation and encouraging him to fight. Write a letter to Senator Johnson urging him to change his mind.