Of Counsel

Legal Notes on Georgia and The South

Breaking News–Wilson Habeas Granted

Posted by Maggie on October 26, 2007

The Georgia Supreme Court this morning has ruled in favor of Genarlow Wilson. For those who may not remember, Wilson was convicted of Aggravated Child Molestation after a fifteen-year-old girl willingly performed oral sex on him when he was seventeen. He was given a mandatory ten-year sentence. Georgia later changed the law to allow willing conduct between teenagers without a significant age difference just a misdemeanor.

The opinion agrees that the sentence is cruel and unusual punishment. This was a huge uphill battle and the Court seems to be pretty fully persuaded and from my quick perusal they seem to do a good analysis. Specifically, they distinguish Widner, a similar case that just went before the Court and that many thought would control. Widner’s conduct would not have been addressed by the amended law because he was 4 years older than the other teen. The Court’s basic message is that changes through the legislature are supposed to show changing attitudes in society. They don’t make the statute retroactive, though. Dissenting justices argued that since the statute wasn’t retroactive, this was going against the legislature.

They’ve sent the case back down to the trial court with an order to set aside Wilson’s sentence and release him. No word yet on when he’ll be out. But since the lower court judge in this case was the one whose order to release got appealed in the first place, I’m guessing it’ll be quick.

As for me, I had serious doubts as to whether they could win on a Cruel & Unusual Punishment argument, but I always hoped they would. Congrats to the legal team.

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One Response to “Breaking News–Wilson Habeas Granted”

  1. […] from SL & P (here and here) and OfCounsel. My prior coverage […]

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