Thursday, December 21, 2006

“I did not have sexual relations with that woman”: In another follow-up, the Times editorializes about the Genarlow Wilson case. They call it “an obvious miscarriage of justice.” I am inclined to agree:

The sexual act took place during a party involving sex, marijuana and alcohol, all captured on a graphic videotape. But that does not make Mr. Wilson a child molester. When high school students engage in consensual sexual activity, that is not the same as an adult molesting a teenager or a teenager molesting a child.

What makes this case more absurd is that if Mr. Wilson and the young woman had sexual intercourse, he would have been guilty only of a misdemeanor and not required to register as a sex offender, thanks to a provision in the law meant to avoid just this type of draconian punishment for consensual youthful indiscretions, the “Romeo and Juliet” exception. And since Mr. Wilson’s conviction, the law has been changed to exempt oral sex as well. But the courts say that can’t help Mr. Wilson retroactively.

His lawyer is planning to file a habeas petition seeking his release. The courts need to grant it and expunge his record so that Mr. Wilson can return to his family and his once promising academic career. Legislators in other states should take notice and make sure that their own laws do not catch children in dragnets designed for predatory adults.

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