NPR logo Genarlow. Free at last?...

Genarlow. Free at last?...

Lee here...

We first reported his story back in February. And if you've been following us since our days in Rough Cuts, you might remember how we were convinced that this was right up our alley. (We were brainstorming heavily during those early piloting days — actually, we still are — to discover and craft our "voice" in the larger media landscape). It wasn't through the AP Wire, nor did it appear to be major headline news elsewhere...except in Atlanta, of course, where the story originates.

We're all (including you) a part of these infamous e-mail chains where, basically, a friend e-mails a friend, or friends, something interesting — and sometimes bizarre, making us completely incredulous — that just doesn't sit quite right.

One day, remind us to tell you about Wendy's e-mails...

Simply put: An e-mail found itself to one of our producers (not me) and it left us wanting to know more...

Fast forward to Monday. We learn of a Georgia judge's decision to void Genarlow's sentence and commute his conviction to a misdemeanor. (By the way, this time it was headline news). Knowing me...or I guess you really don't know me...I thought it would be a good idea to fish in the same pond, so to speak, that made this story first stand out to us. So, I initiated my own personal chain e-mail on the matter to see what my "peoples" were thinking.

One friend, who just happens to do community relations for the Chicago Bulls, wrote back, saying:

I remember being so disturbed about this...When we think about the amount of young Black men who are suffering from this system of the prison industrial complex, false imprisonment, and flat out injustice when people like Paris Hilton...getting headlines for skating the justice just really makes you angry. But I thank God, indeed, that there is still hope for what seems hopeless.

This was before the notice of appeal.

Now my question to you: If Genarlow is released, say, by the end of the summer...what should he expect of post-prison life? Will he ever really be a free man? What's been lost in these 28 months (or gained)? We're talking young adulthood here. Arguably, they're the most formative years of a place in society, after being locked away, could prove to be just as difficult as adjusting to prison-life, no?

Hmm...There goes an idea for a follow-up.

Your thoughts?



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I was disappointed to not see on the web site any reference to the excellent summary of the development of statutory rape laws given by a law professor who appeared on the show regarding Genarlow Wilson. Based on a review of the audio I believe the guest was Professor Franklin E. Zimring of the University of California at Berkeley.

I raise this not only because it seems a strange omission -- leaving out what was probably the most educational part of the show -- but also because I believe the good professor deserves extra credit for actually getting out the whole explanation, despite Neal Conan's obvious impatience with what in radio terms must have seemed like a long-winded answer, but to those of us who want more than just sound bites, was a breath of fresh air. Heaven help us if we can't give someone who really knows what they are talking about the six minutes or so they need to set the record straight.

Bravo professor!

Sent by John Haine | 9:03 AM | 6-13-2007

Hopefully this young man will receive the apologies, condolences, and financial retribution he deserves and be given opportunities that were taken from him. If I had a company, I would gladly welcome him into the fold and try to make amends for the wrongs he has suffered. Hopefully, his life can be salvaged, and hopefully, he isn't condemned to a life of anger, hostility, and regret, which he has every right.
My heart goes out to this young man who did everything right but indulged in something most of us do. What outlandish laws that were meant to protect our children from pedophiles can mete out such cruel and unusual punishment. We ought to be ashamed. Once again, the whole world is crying.

Sent by Evelyn | 10:03 AM | 6-13-2007

Hey John --

I believe you're referring to our initial coverage in February. We talked with American University law professor Angela Jordan Davis and Georgia state Sen. Emanuel Jones... You can still listen to that interview here:

Glad you liked that element...

Sent by Lee Hill with Tell Me More | 10:54 AM | 6-13-2007

It is the school system that has failed these kids. If that many students are reporting ignorance of a law that directly affects them, this is negligence on their part. Probably every high school in Georgia has some type of sex education as part of their curriculum. They teach these kids that it is ok to have sex as long as they use protection and it is consentual, but they don't teach them about the laws involved. Granted, not all teens will pay such laws any attention, and not all teens take sex ed. But just like AIDS, Contraceptives, STDs, etc are well known, you don't have to tell everyone directly for them to eventually find out through someone else! It is not right that people pay so much for POOR EDUCATION! I have no serious complaints about the education system, but something this serious should be COVERED!

Sent by Jacob | 11:30 AM | 6-13-2007

We have a pretty good idea of what Genarlow's challenges will be, don't we? Corporate American will shun him at every corner. Can you imagine what his "background check" will look like? So, the best thing for him to do is to learn how to start and run his own business. Yes, I can hear people saying, "you have got to be kidding!" Here is an example of what I am talking about. 5 years ago, my son made a bad decision, and drove a girl home after a party, and was subsequently falsely accused and charged with a sexual crime. He had to serve jail time and register as a sex offender. Even though the girl later recanted her story, the damage was done. He had a very difficult time finding a job. He enjoyed and was good at cutting hair, so he enrolled in barber college, and once he received his license family member assisted him in getting a job at a hair salon where we have been going for years. He worked there for 3 years and developed a large regular clientele. Again, the family helped him by buying a shop and hiring him to manage the shop. While this may not be Genarlow's choice, my point is that he will probably need someone to believe in him, and give him the opportunity to grow and earn a living.

Sent by Diane | 2:45 PM | 6-13-2007

I am absolutely tired of the courts and law enforcement taking advantage of children.
If they aren't taking advantage of this young child and destroying his future over juvenile sex (NOT molestation), they are taking advantage of a 14 year old child, Shaquanda Cotton, for shoving a teacher and charging her with felony assault and putting her in jail for 7 years!

Both of these cases prove that the system is not made for justice but simply to create opportunity for generating suit - which is a drain on taxpayer dollars.
We wonder why monies are not available for education in a manner required for civic productiveness? Look to the rate of pay/fees for civic lawyers, the increase in the number of jails and jail sentences, irrational sentencing and prosecutions, laws being interpreted in a manner not conducive to continued community cohesion. This overuse of the court system/law enforcement is abuse, and those prosecutors/police that continue to engage in prosecutions/arrests that are horridly abusive in this manner (with an abuse of appeals as well) should no longer have continued funding - with mandatory increases to educational funding in equal proportion.

You won't continue to need that level of police or courts - as more people will become increasingly concerned with education, as more people become educated.

Sent by Mister Ourazeous | 5:45 PM | 6-15-2007

He broke the law and now pays the price. Blacks should quit complaining about the law being applied and look in the mirror. You create your own problems.

Sent by C. Micket | 8:32 AM | 6-28-2007

I don't think anyone is saying he didn't break the law. What everyone is saying is that for the law to be so poorly written is a shame. The fact that the same two people could have had traditional intercourse and he would have served less time is the stupid part. Not only that but his case is the reason they changed the harshness of the sentencing in the first place, why should it not be applied to the case that brought up the issue. It's stupid.

Sent by brent harrington | 11:27 AM | 7-20-2007

I am a science teacher in the state of Georgia. Sex education varies from county to county as far as the stance the county takes. My county teaches abstinence. First of all, parents must sign a form either granting or denying permission for their child to be taught sex education. Secondly, there is a scripted curriculum that I read word for word. They are taught that contraception does not prevent all STD's and pregnancies, and engaging in premarital sex leads to low self esteem. Our focus is on making good choices and doing things to reach your goals. In a perfect world this would be well and good but you'll notice many gaps. Please don't blame teachers in this litigious society! I believe that I should teach laws in relation to minors and heck how about teaching the kids how their body works before telling them not to have sex! But that's just my county. Unfortunately if I left my name, I'd get fired.

Sent by 6th Grade Science Teacher | 12:45 PM | 7-22-2007

A part of me feels this is not a black/white issue but "because" Genarlow's a black man, the media has made it a race issue. But, on the other hand if this had been a young man of the other persuasion this would have been a done deal by now. We never would have heard a peep out of it. My real question is - "since this was consensual sex between two teens, why wasn't the young lady charged" or was she? I could go on and on about this because this leaves me full of questions. We as a black community must stand behind this young man and help him make the transition because I dont think being placed back into society as we know it will be easy for him or his family. Being the mother of "girls", I'm saddened because my black daughters have one less chance of a decent black man as we know it. Genarlow's parents/family should be outraged, but even in the case of a lawsuit being brought against the person doing the video taping or the young lady who aided in this "crime", no amount of money will make his wrong go away.

Sent by Just another voice | 9:42 AM | 7-31-2007

well i am a convicted sex offender and this is what i have to say my case happened in cobb county ga when i was 20 and the other person was 16 and yes we wer dating and got into an arguement and we fought and later the parents not that person pressed charges and now my life has not been the same since iam now 40 and its really tuff because iam labled as a sexual preditor and iam far form that but the media and the law says so and so its hard to find work and places to live and i agree wit the law to a certain degree but not all in ist inclusion, so there are some cases that are rare

Sent by david jones | 3:34 PM | 8-20-2007