PALO ALTO – In the wake of the sentencing of Brock Turner, a 20-year-old man convicted of sexually assaulting a woman while she was unconscious, people across the country have called for the judge in the case to be removed from office.
Santa Clara County Superior Court Judge Aaron Persky sentenced Turner to six months in a county jail and three years’ probation after a jury convicted him of three felonies. He has been derided for being overly sympathetic toward Turner, whose athletic performance and status as a Stanford student played prominently in his defense. Many said Turner’s status as a rich white man saved him from a harsher sentence. This opinion was exacerbated when a letter to the judge by Turner’s father showed he didn’t want his son to be harshly punished for “20 minutes of action.”
A petition to the White House calling for the judge’s impeachment garnered enough signatures to warrant a response from the president. An earlier petition was sent to California lawmakers but was denied. In California, organizers have started raising money for a recall campaign to remove the judge, who is running unopposed for re-election this year. And a number of state legislators have taken their concerns to the Commission on Judicial Performance and Santa Clara District Attorney Jeff Rosen.
Assemblywoman Cristina Garcia, a Democrat who represents the 58th District in Southern California, was one of several legislators who sent a letter to the commission, requesting a review of Persky’s conduct. Another letter to Rosen asked him to request a review of the sentence by another judge.
“I am supportive of every effort that brings attention to this matter and serves as a voice for the victim in the Brock case, as well as other victims of rape,” Garcia told the Northern California Record. “Whether it is a recall or write-in effort, it will be a challenge to accomplish those goals. In the meantime, I am committed to moving legislation forward that redefines rape and fixes a loophole that fails to understand rape is never an accident. It is never invited, wanted or warranted, ever."
Garcia also has taken the opportunity to start a broader conversation about how state policy addresses rape. She introduced a bill that reconciles the definition of the crime in the California Penal Code with the FBI’s definition. So far, 15 legislators have signed on as co-authors of the bill, including members of both houses and Republicans, Garcia said.
“It is important to send a message to the victims about our commitment to confronting rape and making sure their voices are heard,” Garcia said. “I want to send a message to victims of rape they are not alone in their quest for justice.”
Not everyone is critical of the judge. Rosen, whose office tried the case, said in a statement that he disagrees with the sentence but doesn’t think Persky should be removed as a consequence. Two public defenders told the New York Times that Persky is “an exceptional jurist” who did his job.