Sports Law Blog
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Tuesday, May 04, 2004
Marcus Dixon Wins Appeal: The Georgia Supreme Court has overturned the conviction of Marcus Dixon on felony child molestation charges, ruling the state should have used the narrower statute of misdemeanor statutory rape. Dixon was accused of raping a sixteen year-old girl when he was eighteen. He claimed it was consensual sex, and was acquitted of the rape charge. He was still guilty of statutory rape because of her age, but the prosecution attempted to use the much harsher, and broader, felony child molestation statute to get Dixon a harsher sentence. Dixon was sentenced to ten years, but the Georgia court said no:
It would be entirely incongruous with the intent of the legislature, when it eliminated the discretionary aspect of the statute and mandated that conduct meeting the misdemeanor statutory rape criteria be punished only as a misdemeanor, if the State retained the discretion to prosecute the exact same
conduct as either misdemeanor statutory rape or felony child molestation.
That result would completely undermine the legislature's intent to remove any discretion over whether to punish sexual intercourse between teenagers, other than forcible rape, as a misdemeanor or a felony.
As I stated in this earlier post, this is absolutely the correct result. The evidence in this case overwhelmingly indicated that the state deliberately used the harsher felony statute to convict Dixon when he wasacquittedd of rape. Thankfully, the Supreme Court said no, saying the intent of the statute, and the legislature, was clear.
You can read the full opinion here.
This case should give cause for much alarm. Marcus Dixon's status as a star athlete gave this case incredible publicity, and in many ways, allowed for funds to be raised to mount this legal appeal. There are many defendants, though, that do not have this publicity and do not have the money available to mount successful appeals. Thus, one wonders how many similar abuses of the criminal justice system occur unnoticed on a daily basis, especially against defendants that are poor or minorities. Stopping these abuses, and eliminating the "wealth gap" in criminal justice, should be a top priority for our legal system.