Judge who issued Brock Turner's six-month sentence loses job

Blanche Robertson
June 9, 2018

Voters opted to oust Santa Clara County Judge Aaron Persky.

But the Turner sentence was especially egregious.

The judge was following a recommendation from the county probation department, and the California Commission on Judicial Performance ruled that he handled the case legally.

The Democratic-controlled state legislature subsequently passed a law requiring judges to sentence those guilty of sexual assault to prison time rather than the county jail, as in Turner's case, and to prescribe longer terms of incarceration, this under conditions where, in 2011, the United States Supreme Court wrote that California's state prisons were so dangerously overcrowded that it violated the Eighth Amendment right of prisoners to be free from "cruel and unusual punishment".

"This sets a risky precedent for state court judges in California and perhaps beyond", said LaDoris Cordell, a retired Santa Clara County judge who supported Persky's campaign against the recall.

Turner faced up to 14 years in prison, with prosecutors seeking a for a six-year sentence after he was charged with five felonies in February 2015, which included rape of an intoxicated person, rape of an unconscious person, sexual penetration by a foreign object of an unconscious woman, sexual penetration by a foreign object of an intoxicated woman and assault with intent to commit rape.

But the judge said the publicity of Turner's arrest and trial and the young man's loss of a swimming scholarship also factored into his sentence.

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This week, voters agreed to recall - that is, remove - Persky. The impact of the campaign will be to intimidate other judges into giving the harshest sentences possible for fear of losing their jobs.

Critics of the recall movement questioned the prudence of removing a judge for a single unpopular decision.

Joshua Spivak, a scholar at Wagner College in NY, said successful judicial recalls are uncommon nationwide - the last one was in Wisconsin in 1977. It said that the sentence was within parameters set by law, which made it within the judge's discretion to mete out.

"The problem with this recall is it will pressure judges to follow the rule of public opinion as opposed to the rule of law".

The case sparked a national debate over the criminal justice system's treatment of sexual assault victims and racial inequities in court.

Persky declined comment Tuesday night and didn't return phone calls from The Associated Press on Wednesday.

Dauber said opponents' position takes a "dim view of judicial integrity" and that she has faith judges will continue to exercise their independence regardless of the outcome.

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