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Discretion in the Criminal Justice System

      Discretion is arguably the most important tool in a criminal justice professional’s arsenal. Without it, we would be robots. Even the ...

The False Rape Allegation of NFL Star Marcus Dixon

           Racism is still alive and thriving in America and there is no better place to see it transpire than in the court room. Perhaps the most unjust achievement for any human being can be the take away of a person’s freedoms when they have done nothing wrong. This is exactly what happened to Marcus Dixon in Floyd County, Georgia during his senior year of high school. The alleged victim was a fifteen-year-old white teenager, who would be the basis for the entire investigation, trial, and sentencing. It is assumed by both professionals and non-professionals alike that had Mr. Dixon been white instead of black, regardless entirely of the victim’s race, a trial would never have occurred. It also goes a step further than that though and basically, had Mr. Dixon simply been in a different part of the country, his case would have been given an entirely different viewpoint of the justice system. A viewpoint that didn't capitalize racism.

            Floyd County almost seems to have a love-love relationship with racism. Lynching is one of the purest embodiment of evil that human beings have exacted on each other since the dawning of our country. Unfortunately, in the South, lynching became synonymous with racism and Floyd Country has a troubled past with this sort of inherent human rage. It’s estimated that the first lynching in Floyd County took place around 1890 and was an unnamed black man or woman. (Rome-News Tribune) This would certainly not be the last lynching in Floyd either. Lynching back then was a modern, gruesome spectacle. People traveled from all corners of the county to watch someone be hung, and they printed it on post cards and sold photos of the corpses. In only fifteen months, Floyd would have two more lynching’s, both African-Americans. (Rome-News Tribune, 2017) What causes people to act in such a way that they would strip a human being of his or her dignity before murdering them in front of an entire mob? The reason is actually very contradictory to the entire nature of lynching, but it all started during the revolutionary times as a form of justice. According to Paul Giddings, a professor of Afro-American Studies at Smith College, this sort of extralegal justice, “takes place during that period of time, because it's not too many courts. It's, sort of, difficult to get to them. This is a period that the British are also in place in many places in the South, and so it becomes very dangerous to move around. And so, this is a form of justice, of local justice, that is not condoned by a formal court,” (Facing History and Ourselves) This means that because the court systems were either non-existent or imaginably bias towards the colonials of the time, mobs would take things into their own hands and hang anyone who they believed to be guilty of a crime. Of course, this is a completely ridiculous system in which the accused and condemned may not even know what they’re being hung for. Colonial America was extremely primitive in it’s thinking, but this is exactly what was happening throughout the 1800’s and 1900’s in Georgia to African Americans.

            In the neighboring county of Forsyth in northern Georgia, a white woman of eighteen years old was found in the forest under extremely suspicious circumstances in 1912. Almost without hesitation, the mob rounded up the only African Americans around at the time and immediately lynched one of them, Rob Edwards, in the town square. In the following days to come, two more African American teenagers were lynched as well, one Oscar Daniel, and one Ernest Knox. It’s still unclear as to who actually committed the murder, but these three boys paid for it with their lives.

            In the aftermath of the lynching’s, the white residents of the county began systematically driving all of the black residents out while also establishing a whites-only border. ( This led to a county that is a present-day racist utopia for whites. In counties where they cannot drive out the minority population, they use mass incarceration instead. In an article anticipating a death row survivor and wrongfully convicted man named William Neal Moore to address issues on race relations in Georgia, the author states that “One of every ten black males in the United States ages twenty-five to twenty-nine is in prison, the largest and most expensive prison system in the world, and fifty percent of all black males without a high school degree will go to prison at some point in their lives.” (Georgia's Rome) This is an astounding number, and it puts it into perspective just how racist the criminal justice system currently is inside of the courtroom. The charges that sent Marcus Dixon to prison initially for ten years, which was aggravated child molestation because it was found that her hymen was not intact is overwhelming evidence that this prosecution and county was trying to place another black man in prison over the lies of one little white girl. Race had a large part to play in this case but the way that statutory laws work in general can also be to blame. Marcus Dixon should not have even received a year for having consensual sex with a classmate.

            Statutory rape is a way to stop predatory behavior on teenagers by adults, which sounds great in theory, but what these laws really do a lot of the time is charge other teenagers with crimes and potentially ruin lives. If an eighteen-year-old and a fifteen-year-old cannot legally have sex with each other then they should not be in the same environments together every single day. Perhaps high school should end at seventeen instead of normally at eighteen so that these confrontations happen less. Why would we put two still developing teenagers that are packed to the brim with hormones sitting directly next to each other in a classroom and then get mad when they have sex. It’s like cutting your brake lines and then taking the car to the shop to complain that the brakes are not working. It’s asinine to continue believing this way and a reform for these laws should be in high demand.

           The history of statutory rape laws comes from the times where virginity was considered a tangible object. In order to protect a handmaiden’s “purity” statutory rape laws took hold. If a virginity was taken by a man who did not intend to marry the young woman nor had much to offer as a dowry, this made it possible to punish the individual. (CNN / FindLaw) This was also a competent way to stave off predatory behavior before police were as proficient as they are today.

       The argument for statutory rape laws is primarily feminist driven as males do not have to worry as much about being groomed and taken advantage of during their early to mid-teens. Of course, predatory relationships still exist between males and males or older females and younger males, but Marcus Dixon was an older male and the “victim” was a younger female, so the discussion for the other types of relationships does not apply to this case.

            Statutory rape laws vary by state, but they should allow for consensual sex between any teenagers that are within sixteen years of age to nineteen years of age as even nineteen is still considered young and if they did happen to be a predatory individual, they would have an ample amount of trouble than attempting to prey upon a fifteen or fourteen-year-old. Once someone turns sixteen they should be allowed to make their own decisions regarding sex unless the person is in their twenties as that would be predatory because of how much more developed the twenty-year-old brain is than the sixteen-year-old brain. In a journal named Aggression and Violent Behavior, an article about the statutory sex crimes between consenting adults and teenagers states that “…evidence suggests that adolescent females who get involved in sexual relationships with adult men probably have substantial problems with poverty, family dysfunction, parent–child relationships, and/or other antisocial behaviors that precede the commencement of the statutory relationship.” (Hines & Finkelhorb, 2007, Aggression and Violent Behavior, 300-314) This means that the stressors in the teenager’s life can make them more easily persuaded to do something that they possibly don’t want to do. They become easy targets for adults who would use them for sex. The journal does go to state that, “…there is evidence that these girls can be seduced by adult males because of the financial and emotional security the men offer. On the other hand, there is also evidence that some of these adolescent girls actively seek older male partners because of the sexual knowledge, financial security, emotional stability, and/or other resources they feel these men can offer them…” (Hines &  Finkelhorb, 2007), but this would mean that the statutory rape laws themselves aren’t doing the intended purpose that they were designed for, which is stopping random males from having sex and taking the virginity of young handmaidens without the intent to provide for them. This means that if we are to take the laws as something that was necessary to implement when they were, the reasoning for adolescents having sex with adults was because of predatory behavior on the male’s part unless he was to financially provide for her.

            The jury believed the sex to be consensual between the two teenagers as her recount of the events and the way she expressed that he took her clothes off with his knees and elbows made zero sense. (ABC) According to our understanding of statutory rape, she could have been groomed into having sex with him, but as a classmate who sat directly behind her, it’s unlikely he went out of his way to prey on her. She mentioned that her dad would kill both of them had he found out that she had consensual sex with a black man, and this isolates the reasoning for why she lied in the first place. (NY Times) Because of her lying and willingness to send a man to prison for what could have amounted to life, the evidence that she was a victim to the grooming of a predator falls flat. Therefore, statutory rape laws need to be altered and changed so that sixteen-year-olds to nineteen-year-olds can have sex without the possibility of confinement for the older party. The “victim” in this case was only fifteen, which under the new statutory guidelines would still be illegal, but the repercussions would be less severe for Marcus Dixon, barring all of the other race-fueled charges that were brought against him in the throughout the trial.

            Will America ever be the melting pot that it was destined to be in the beginning? When slaves were purchased and brought from Africa, a terrible evil transpired and it is something that will truly never be forgotten. There are groups attempting to rectify things in our current generational period, but what was done, and the atrocities committed by allowing an entire people to be forced into servitude is something that should have never transpired. The fact that the criminal justice system is still cracking the whips upon the backs of African American’s in this country today is sickening and vile. The only “crime” that Marcus Dixon committed that day was having consensual sex while being black with a girl who cared more about her family’s racist ideals than the life of another human being. One who she even agreed to let inside of her at one point.

Works Cited

Colb, S. F. (2004, February 13). The pros and cons  of statutory rape laws. Retrieved from FindLaw / CNN:

Georgia's Rome. (2012, October 31). Death Row and  Mass Incarceration in the United States: The New Racism? Retrieved from  Georgia's Rome:

Giddings, P. (2019). The Origins of Lynching  Culture in the United States. Retrieved from Facing History and Ourselves:

Hines, D. A., & Finkelhorb, D. (2007). Statutory  sex crime relationships between juveniles and adults: A review of social  scientific research. Aggression and Violent Behavior, 300-314.

Jacobs, A. (2004, January 22). Student Sex Case in  Georgia Stirs Claims of Old South Justice. Retrieved from The New York  Times:

Little, B. (2018, May 23). In 1912, This Georgia  County Drove Out Every Black Resident. Retrieved from History:

Marash, D. (2004, January 21). Georgia Town Torn  Over Teen's Case. Retrieved from ABC News:
Rome-News Tribune. (2017, February 27). Floyd  County’s history of lynching. Retrieved from Rome-News Tribune