Genarlow Wilson, who was sentenced to a decade in prison and branded a child molester for having consensual sex with another teenager, is a free man, thanks to what some would call judicial activism. In releasing Wilson, who was 17 when he had oral sex with a 15-year-old girl, the Georgia Supreme Court has done more than redress an individual injustice. It has reminded this nation that judges are not just bureaucrats or (as U.S. Supreme Court Chief Justice John G. Roberts Jr. once suggested) umpires. They are, and should be, righters of wrongs.
It's hard to imagine anyone more wronged by the criminal justice system than Wilson, who has spent the last 32 months behind bars. Now 21, he was a high school student when he was convicted of aggravated child molestation, an offense carrying a minimum prison term of 10 years and thereafter requiring registration as a sex offender.
Whether Wilson, an African American, was a victim of racial bias or simply of a draconian statute, his sentence and his demonization as a child molester amounted to cruel and unusual punishment. Georgia's Legislature seemed to recognize as much last year when it reclassified conduct such as Wilson's as a misdemeanor that wouldn't require registration as a sex offender.