California Judge Aaron Persky has been removed from the bench after a recall campaign. Persky is the judge who sentenced Stanford University swimmer Brock Turner to just 6 months in jail for his conviction for sexually assaulting an unconscious woman behind a dumpster.
Prosecutors had initially argued for 6 years in prison, but Judge Persky handed down a mere 6 month sentence followed by 3 years probation. Persky claimed the sentence took into account the probation departments recommendation, alcohol as a mitigating factor, and the fact that Turner was a first-time offender. After the sentence and in response to public outrage, the California legislature revised its penal code to require a prison sentence for those convicted of sexual assault.
A judge’s role can be very difficult when balancing the penalties associated with the type of crime committed. There is no doubt that sexual assault is a heinous and sometimes violent crime, but they must also take into account the defendant’s life, not just the victim. In this particular case, many people argued that Turner’s wealth and societal status attributed to the light sentence and one can’t help but think that could be true. In our criminal justice system, statistics show minorities are convicted and sentenced at a higher rate than privileged defendants.
While one can’t help but disagree with Judge Persky’s sentence given the nature of the crime it should show as a reminder of the power that judges have in sentencing. While it may not be appropriate to give someone a 6 month jail sentence for sexual assault we often see the maximum jail sentence handed out for non-violent misdemeanor crimes. The balance has to be found and we trust judges to do just that, but we must also be reminded that if we are not happy, we as citizens also have a voice.
The Washington Post – June 6,2018 – Voters remove judge who sentenced Brock Turner to six months in Stanford sexual assault case