Originally published July 20, 2007
A Life Shattered
"We are messing up the future of the next generation" ~Rev. Joseph Lowery
Serenity covered Juanessa Bennett's face. Certainly, it must have masked a storm beneath. Quietly she stood on the steps of the Georgia Supreme Court facing the hoard of media as her son's, Genarlow Wilson, attorney B.J Bernstein explained the legal intricacies of what just happened.
When asked her plans for the weekend, Ms. Bennett replied, "I'm gonna stay prayed up".
Prayer may be Genarlow Wilson's last best hope; for common sense and reason left this arena long ago.
"We could have five hundred hearings and the judge would still have to follow the law" ~Douglas County District Attorney David McDade
The law must take its course. The legal road began when District Attorney McDade, known as a law and order prosecutor, chose to bring the full weight of the justice system against Genarlow Wilson. We all think of the law as a black and white world where all is written in stone with no variation. In reality, it is a place of muddled motivations and convenience. Suspects plead to lesser crimes. Prosecutors choose to charge based on chances of success. Sometimes they choose discretion.
"To insure justice..." ~ Preamble to the Constitution of the State of Georgia
A prosecutor is bound by law but is also bound to a higher contract. In its most base form, a prosecutor's discretion is used to grease the wheels. To get the business of the people done. But it also serves a larger purpose, for in the end all those who hold their hand and swear before the people of Georgia are bound to justice. On most occasions justice requires the punishment of those who have or would do harm to others. But on rare occasions justice requires mercy. As Abraham Lincoln once said, "let 'em up easy".
In charging Genarlow Wilson with aggravated child molestation, D.A. McDade certainly followed the letter of the law but it may be debated for decades whether he felt the spirit. Nearly three years later, justice last hope may rest in the hands of the Supreme Court of Georgia, who on this day heard arguments for and against the release of Genarlow Wilson.
Justice is the last hope of one quiet woman standing on the steps of the courthouse
"We should change the name of prisons to schools" ~Genarlow Wilson attorney B.J. Bernstein
One has to wonder about the thoughts of Juanessa Bennett. All mothers hope their children hold promise. Just over the horizon, Genarlow Wilson's mother could see promise fulfilled. A son who excelled in academics and athletics. A child she would not have to worry about paying for college, for the colleges stood in line to beg him to come. A life destined if not for greatness, then success and security. Most mothers make simple requests; be safe, be happy, make me proud. Some spend a lifetime struggling to find these safe havens for their children. Juanessa Bennett had them in her grasp only to see them whisked away in a flash of indiscretion by her child and lack of discretion by a prosecuting attorney.
It is the testament to the will of a mother that Ms. Bennett still speaks of hope. She still sees promise for a son who now waits behind bars. Waiting for justice. Waiting to prove his will not be a life shattered.