Friday, 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 hoarde 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 simply 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 D.A. McDade, known for being 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 molestion, 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.


Anonymous said...

Great piece, Jimmy.

annesant said...

I shake my head in disbelief at this whole fiasco.

Thanks to you and all the other bloggers who continue to write about it so movingly.

EHT said...

Thanks for your work today.

This is the never ending bad dream. I can't help but feel for his mother....

A stupid, stupid law..

Chuck Gallagher said...

The outcome of this case will surely be decided within a week or two at the latest. But, beyond the minimum sentence issue, at hand, a larger question exists: what will Genarlow Wilson do to benefit others from his experience? Certainly, his sentence and incarceration has caused a law to be changed. One could say that is good. But beyond that, Genarlow is an example of a simple, yet profound, principle: Every choice has a consequence.

As former inmate from Federal prison, today I share with business executives and young people that simple message: Every choice has a consequence. And, while I am extraordinarily sympathetic to Mr. Wilson's plight, his example has helped other young people evaluate the power of their seemingly simple choices. As the founder of the Choices Foundation, perhaps Genarlow would consider stepping up and helping others understand the power of choice.