Genarlow Wilson, Ctd

A legal reader writes:

One of the e-mails you posted on the Genarlow Wilson case is misleading by saying that the prosecutor is black. While the state attorney general appealing the grant of habeas corpus relief is black, the original prosecutor was white and was hardly offering Wilson an easy way out - he would still have had to serve substantial time in prison and would still have been a registered sex offender. It was that individual's decision to charge Genarlow with the aggravated child molestation charge and the apparently unsubstantiated rape charge.  The absolutism of his position was responsible for almost all of this tragic situation.

As for the attorney general, however, his actions are neither as despicable as you have implied nor as courageous as your commenters suggested.

He is simply doing his job, which is to defend his sole client, the State of Georgia; as long as a good faith argument can be made that the law he is charged with enforcing is constitutional, he must make that argument on behalf of his client.  Once a conviction has been implemented, an attorney general can no longer base his decision on issues of justice and fairness.

However, the comment by your correspondent that the court lacked the authority to release Wilson and that General Baker is the only person standing up for the rule of law is deeply flawed.  This was a habeas petition, and Georgia law gives the county containing the prison exclusive jurisdiction to determine habeas petitions.  Additionally, section 9-14-48 of the Georgia Code requires that habeas relief be granted "to prevent a miscarriage of justice."  Section 9-14-42 makes clear that the judge has the right to decide the case on grounds of both the Georgia Constitution and, more importantly, the US Constitution.  In this case, the judge found Wilson's sentence to be not only a miscarriage of justice, but also "cruel and unusual punishment" in violation of the 8th Amendment of the US Constitition.  That conclusion, by the way, is one that is supported by a number of US Supreme Court cases, most notably Salem v. Helm (1983), which defined even a prison sentence as cruel and unusual if it was overly harsh compared to the underlying offense, the sentences imposed on other criminals in the state, and the sentences for the same act in other states.  Wilson's sentence would seem to be excessive under each of these tests.