12 June 2007

Genarlow Wilson and the Law

Few people could argue, I believe, that Genarlow Wilson, the Georgia teen who was sent to prison for 10 years for having consensual sex with a 15-year old girl, has had justice. Shortly after he was convicted of a felony and thus branded a sexual predator for the rest of his life, Georgia changed the law that convicted him, turning his sort of crime into a misdemeanor. And rightly so. There is a world of difference between a 17-year old having sex with a girl only two years his junior and an adult who preys on immature teens and children.

Genarlow Wilson is not a model citizen. Drugs, alcohol, a party, and a camera were involved in the evening that got him into hot water. And even at seventeen, Genarlow Wilson needed to be punished for his misbehavior. As a Christian, I do not think premarital sex is ever a good idea, and this sort of lascivious willy-nilly loose “hooking up” is frankly immoral and revolting. I do not believe that God will thunder down and punish you to hell for it, but there is a much deeper moral and philosophical reason why God forbids it. It’s because it’s part of a lifestyle that leads away from wisdom and into foolishness. I can hardly find a better illustration for the kind of foolish life described in Proverbs chapters 1-9 than the Genarlow Wilson story.

But one thing that he is not is a sexual predator. At least not yet. He has spent two years in prison and somehow, I can believe that keeping him in the big house for another 8 years and then compelling him to register as a sex offender for the rest of his life might just crush his soul enough to actually turn him into one. The sooner he is out of prison, the better.

However, the Georgia attorney general is correct in his contention that judge Thomas Wilson does not have the jurisdiction to change the sentence. Some might think that this is a triviality—after all, justice is being restored. But do not forget that in America’s legal system, which is a common law system, every decision creates precedent. Next month or next year, another case might come up where things are similar, though slightly different, and then the Genarlow Wilson case will be invoked to justify release. Before you know it, you can drive a truck through the loophole of judicial jurisdiction.

The judiciary does not have the authority to let Genarlow Wilson go. He was properly convicted for a felony by a jury of his peers. The sentence cannot be modified by the courts in this way. The only ways out are: appeals of the original sentence (if any are still available), another legislative change by the Georgia legislature to include Genarlow Wilson’s situation (making him eligible for treatment under the new law, which he currently is not), or an official pardon by the governor. We must do things properly, or the consequences will be worse than the original problem. We cannot be too careful when it comes to sex crimes. No-one wants to give real sex offenders a way out of jail because of our blind compassion for one innocent kid.