Georgia’s top court ruled that the 10-year sentence of Genarlow Wilson, shown here with a family member, was cruel and unusual punishment.
In a 4-3 decision, Georgia’s Supreme Court ordered the release of 21-year-old Genarlow Wilson, whose case drew national attention after he was sentenced to 10 years for engaging in oral sex with a consenting 15-year-old girl when he was a 17-year-old high school student.
Friday’s decision came after a protracted legal battle that has galvanized international attention and drawn the involvement of civil rights leaders. Partly as a result of Wilson’s conviction, state legislators changed the law to make such consensual conduct between minors a misdemeanor, rather than a felony.
“The release of Genarlow Wilson by the Georgia Supreme Court is a significant victory in redressing the reckless and biased behavior of the criminal justice system that now operates in many states across the union,” the Rev. Al Sharpton said.
“The bad news is that his young life was so unfairly interrupted with time that no state court can recover for him,” Sharpton added. “This is why the Justice Department and federal government must review state courts that willfully and almost without pause violate the civil rights of people, particularly young black men around this country.”
Wilson was an honor student, a football star and his high school’s homecoming king before his conviction.