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judicial recall

In 2015, Emily Doe became a victim of sexual assault after blacking out from drinking too much alcohol. In March of the following year a jury found, then Stanford University swimmer Brock Turner (20), guilty of three felonies:

  • Sexual penetration with a foreign object of an intoxicated person;
  • sexual penetration with a foreign object of an unconscious person;
  • and, intent to commit rape.

Sexual assault and rape occur on college campuses across the country at an unbelievable rate. Research varies somewhat, but it’s possible that 25% of undergraduate women experience sexual assault while in college, according to the National Institute of Justice (NIJ). It is worth keeping in mind that campus sexual assault and rape often goes unreported, so it’s possible that such crimes are even more pervasive than studies show.

At the Law Office of Ronald G. Brower, we have been following the Brock Turner case with some interest for two essential reasons: the guilty verdict led to a shockingly light punishment from Judge Aaron Persky and the fact that the sentence led to a successful judicial recall last week. The latter being the first such instance of recalling a judge in California in more than eight decades, The New York Times reports. While ending the judge’s career may have in fact been warranted given the circumstances, the implications of such a move could have a lasting effect on the criminal justice system.

A 6-Month Sentence for Sexual Assault

Brock Turner served three months of a six-month jail sentence for his crimes. The former collegiate swimmer’s name is on the list of registered sex offenders, and he is on probation for three years. It’s worth pointing out that the crimes Turner was found guilty of were punishable by 14 years in prison. Judge Persky argues that such a lengthy sentence would have done irreparable damage to the life of the young athlete, but he said little of the lasting damage that sexual assault would likely have on Emily Doe for the rest of her life.

Even though Judge Persky was cleared of any official misconduct, Michele Dauber, a law professor at Stanford took measure to recall the judge—acquiring the necessary number of signatures to allow Californians to vote on the matter, according to the article. Ms. Dauber’s daughter is a friend of Emily Doe, so there is arguably a personal element to the professor’s successful recall campaign.

“The voters of Santa Clara County are the winners of this election,” Michele Dauber, a law professor at Stanford who led the recall campaign, said in a statement. “We voted that sexual violence, including campus sexual violence, must be taken seriously by our elected officials, and by the justice system.” 

Many legal experts thought Turner’s sentence was too lenient but opposed the recall, the article reports. It’s probable that judges will be less likely to consider leniency even when the circumstances of a particular case warrant lighter sentences.

“Most of the judges in California would have done the same thing as Judge Persky,” said Jeffrey Rosen, the Santa Clara County district attorney, “which told me the problem was not the judge but the law, and that the law needed to be changed.”

As we have highlighted in the past, Turner’s sentencing did lead state lawmakers to change the law; sexual assaults now carry mandatory minimum sentences.

Orange County Criminal Defense Attorney

If you are facing criminal charges, please contact The Law Office of Ronald G. Brower. With over 30 years of experience, attorney Brower can give you the best chance of finding a favorable outcome.

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