Scales of Justice: the tipping point

Cornelius Dupree, a Texan man was freed and exonerated of a crime through DNA testing after 30 years of false imprisonment.  Several points stand out for me in this case.  One, is the imbalance of the justice system. It can’t help but be noticed that in this crime as in the case of the Atlanta sisters who served 16 years in a Mississippi prison for stealing $11 (“armed robbery”) and were freed on Jan. 7th — only if one donated a kidney to the other sister.

In the case of Genarlow Wilson, a 17 year old honor student and star athlete was given a sentence of 10 years and lifetime record as a sex offender for consensual oral sex with a 15 year old at a party, and thereby considered a minor.  Granted this is in Georgia, a state where until 1998, even oral sex between a husband and wife was illegal. But still…a third of the teenage boys in this country would be in prison if oral sex were a crime — if not more, given average age of sexual activity initiation is 14 to 15 for an American male teen.

The one thing in common are that all of the convicted are African American.  In appeals, the first time the Supreme Court voted on Wilson’s case, it was 4-3. The four judges who voted against him were white. The three judges who voted for him were black.

These cases all are in the South, but, let’s not think it stops at geographical borders. One need not look further than the raging debates about security vs. racial profiling in cities like New York, Los Angeles, and Chicago.  But none of these cases were in the tricky areas of urban ghettos. The rich and famous aside, the every day folk of the United States still are subject to a racial imbalance in the doling out of justice.

The second glaring point in these cases is the punishment itself.  If Dupree had admitted to the sexual assault, he would have cut his prison time by more than half: for rape.  If Wilson had agreed to a plea, he would have served two years and had to register as a sex offender.  Two years. Remember, this law, now undergoing scrutiny though still not changed, was to be used against pedophiles.  There is a higher sentence for pot possession than for abusing a child or rape.

Look for more posts with real experts to answer questions such as why do such ridiculous sentences still exist and how can they be changed (and why aren’t they?); why is someone like Wilson behind bars; is there a prevalence of such skewing of justice in some areas over others and why?


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