The ACLU of Georgia issued the following statement today regarding the case of Ramad Chatman, a black man who is serving a 10-year prison sentence despite being found “not guilty” by a jury.
“What happened to Mr. Chatman is a travesty of justice,” said Sean J. Young, Legal Director of the ACLU of Georgia. “The First Offender Law is supposed to give people a second chance, but here, it stripped Mr. Chatman of his constitutional rights, allowing a judge to sentence him for a crime the government was unable to prove he committed beyond a reasonable doubt. The ACLU is investigating the matter and will do what it can to restore justice.”
Chatman was finishing his five-year probation term for his first-ever offense and trying to rebuild his life when he suddenly became a suspect in an armed robbery case. He was tried by a jury and acquitted of all charges. Notwithstanding the jury’s verdict, the judge determined on his own that he committed armed robbery on a lower preponderance-of-the-evidence standard, and sentenced him to 10 years in prison—well past his probationary period.