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Sentencing/Post Conviction

Precedent Favors State in Teen-Sex Case

Posted Jun 14, 2007 7:55 AM CDT
By Debra Cassens Weiss

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The youth whose 10-year sentence for consensual oral sex was tossed out may face an uphill battle on appeal.

A Georgia judge granted a habeas corpus petition for Genarlow Wilson on June 11, saying his sentence for sex with a 15-year-old girl when he was age 17 was a "grave miscarriage of justice."

The Georgia Supreme Court may disagree. Last year, it upheld a 10-year sentence for a different youth, Joshua Widner, in a similar case, according to the Fulton County Daily Report. He was convicted for sex having sex with a 14-year-old girl when he was 18.

The Supreme Court ruled then that the sentence did not “unconstitutionally shock the conscience.”

The ruling is “a big hurdle,” according to Mercer University law professor Sarah Gerwig-Moore, who took on Widner’s representation after the supreme court ruling. She told the legal newspaper she plans to file a habeas petition in federal court seeking Widner’s release.

She may also file a state habeas petition relying on the argument that helped Wilson—that the sentence is a miscarriage of justice under the state’s habeas statute.

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