Two months ago 20-year-old Brock Turner, a former Stanford University student, was unanimously found guilty by a jury of 12 on three counts of felony sexual assault after he was caught penetrating an unconscious woman with his fingers behind a dumpster on campus. The case garnered international attention and censure when Judge Aaron Persky sentenced him to a meagre six months of prison time for a crime that should have gotten him up to 14 years, lamenting the “collateral consequences on the defendant’s life” and citing Turner’s intoxication at the time of the crime, lack of prior offences and glowing testimony from character witnesses.
Outrage over this sentencing, of which Turner will be serving only half, has created a movement to recall Judge Persky, with a website and multiple online petitions dedicated to achieving this end. On June 14, he was removed from a new sexual assault case at the insistence of prosecutors on the grounds that they did not believe he could “fairly participate” in the hearing, Santa Clara County District Attorney Jeff Rosen said.
Adding to the backlash, on June 13, Palo Alto Weekly published a letter from a juror in the Stanford assault case, in which he lambasts the judge for his lenient sentence and says, “This punishment does not fit the crime.” This is the first time a juror has spoken out on the matter.
Read the full letter from the juror to Judge Persky, below:
To Judge Aaron Persky:
I was a juror in the Brock Turner trial. I have to be honest and say that I was not happy that I was selected for the jury given my work responsibilities, but once I was in the box, I took my civic responsibility very seriously.
Personally I have absolutely no doubt that Mr. Turner is guilty as charged and as convicted on all three counts. The predominantly male jury reached consensus of guilt on all three counts within two days of deliberation. In light of that quick and decisive finding, I was absolutely shocked and appalled when I heard on June 2 about the minimal sentence you announced that Mr. Turner would serve for this crime. After the guilty verdict I expected that this case would serve as a very strong deterrent to on-campus assaults but with the ridiculously lenient sentence that Brock Turner received, I am afraid that it makes a mockery of the whole trial and the ability of the justice system to protect victims of assault and rape. Clearly there are few to no consequences for a rapist even if they are caught in the act of assaulting a defenseless, unconscious person.
I recently became an American citizen after being in the country for over 30 years. This was my first experience as a juror and frankly I am disappointed.
Although I wasn’t in the court for the sentencing, you were reported as having said:
“A prison sentence would have a severe impact on him … I think he will not be a danger to others.”
Isn’t that the point … a sentence should have a severe impact on Mr. Turner just as the event for which he has never expressed sorrow or regret has had on Ms. Doe. Also, given Mr. Turner’s complete lack of credibility, I certainly would not assume that he will not be of danger to others. Witnesses describe his predatory behavior both the evening of the assault and on at least one other previous occasion, which is evidence of a pattern of dangerous behavior.
It was also reported that you acknowledged the difficulty of trying to balance the jury’s guilty verdict with your belief in the events as Mr. Turner described them. A jury of 12 people found Mr. Turner guilty of three charges, but you, despite the information that came to light during the trial and the subsequent sentencing memos filed by both sides, chose to disregard the jury’s findings and other evidence and believe the defendant’s self-serving version of events. And you disregarded the findings that he had lied about prior alcohol and drug use in high school. You chose to find the defendant credible on the basis of irrelevant character witness testimony; I find that impossible to understand.
During the sentencing, you said, “The trial is a search for the truth. It’s an imperfect process. But after the trial all sides should accept the jury’s findings.” It seems to me that you really did not accept the jury’s findings. We were unanimous in our finding of the defendant’s guilt and our verdicts were marginalized based on your own personal opinion.
You had to justify that there were “unusual circumstances” to give Mr. Turner less than the two year minimum sentence for his crime. But the unfortunate fact is, these circumstances are not unusual. Women like Ms. Doe suffer daily from similar crimes and I fear your sentence will make these victims less willing to report their attacks.
This punishment does not fit the crime. Mr. Turner, convicted of 3 felony counts of sexual assault, will serve 3 months in county jail since he is scheduled to be released on September 2. And Mr. Turner is going to appeal the verdict, which not only is a complete waste of tax payers’ money but could mean, if he gets off, that he will not even have to register as a sex offender. How unjust would that outcome be, the slate wiped clean for a 3-count convicted sex offender?!
Justice has not been served in this case. The jury’s verdict of guilt on all three felony counts of sexual assault was completely disregarded in an effort to spare the perpetrator a ‘hardship’. What message does this send to Emily Doe, and indeed all victims of sexual assault and rape, especially those on college campuses? Your concern was for the impact on the assailant. I vehemently disagree, our concern should be for the victim.
Shame on you.
A Concerned Juror