I’m sure you’ve all heard of the case in which a Stanford student was sentenced to less than minimum sentence after being found guilty of raping a woman. In case you haven’t, this got a wide audience because of the victim’s statement:
“A former Stanford swimmer who sexually assaulted an unconscious woman was sentenced to six months in jail because a longer sentence would have “a severe impact on him,“ according to a judge. At his sentencing Thursday, his victim read him a letter describing the “severe impact“ the assault had on her.”
I’d like to highlight a few articles on the case:
John Pavlovitz: To Brock Turner’s Father, From Another Father.
“Dear Mr. Turner,
I’ve read your letter to the judge on behalf of your son Brock, asking for leniency in his rape conviction.
I need you to understand something, and I say this as a father who dearly loves my son as much as you must love yours:
Brock is not the victim here.
His victim is the victim.
She is the wounded one.
He is the damager.”
“Judge Aaron Persky empathized with Brock Allen Turner and could easily imagine what it would be like to lose sports fame (as Persky enjoyed), to lose a Sanford education (as Persky enjoyed), to lose the sort of easy success and high regard that a young, reasonably affluent Stanford graduate (like Persky was) can expect as a matter of right. Judge Persky could easily imagine how dramatically different a state prison is from Stanford frat parties, and how calamitous was Turner’s fall. That’s how Judge Persky convinced himself to hand such a ludicrously light sentence for such a grotesque violation of another human being.
But most people fed into the criminal justice system aren’t champion athletes with Stanford scholarships. Most aren’t even high school graduates. Most are people who have lived lives that are alien and inscrutable to someone successful enough to become a judge. Judges might be able to empathize with having to quit their beloved college, but how many can empathize with a defendant who lost a minimum-wage job because they couldn’t make bail? How many can empathize with someone more likely to sleep by a dumpster than exit a frat party next to one? They can conceive of the humiliation of being on the sex offender registry after getting into an elite university, but can they conceive of the humiliation of being stopped, frisked, detained, and beaten with impunity because of the color of their skin? Experience teaches that the answer is usually no.
This means that the system is generally friendly to defendants who look like Brock Allen Turner and generally indifferent or cruel to people who don’t look like him. No high school dropout who rapes an unconscious girl behind a dumpster is getting six months in jail and a solicitous speech from the likes of Judge Persky. Judges take their youth as a sign that they are “superpredators,“ not as grounds for leniency. If you tell a judge that they aren’t a danger to others, the judge will peer over his or her glasses and remark that people who rape unconscious girls in the dirt are self-evidently dangerous, and don’t be ridiculous. Judges don’t think that a good state prison stretch will have too severe an impact – after all, what are they missing, really?”
Democracy Now: Meet the Law Professor Leading a Bid to Recall the Judge Who Sentenced Stanford Rapist to 6 Months. (video & transcript)
“A Stanford University law professor has launched a campaign to recall the judge who sentenced former Stanford swimmer Brock Allen Turner to six months in jail after he was convicted of three felony counts for sexually assaulting an unconscious woman behind a dumpster. Judge Aaron Persky expressed concern a longer sentence would have “a severe impact” on Turner. Under California law, Turner’s crime carries a minimum punishment of two years in prison. But Stanford law professor Michele Landis Dauber says Judge Persky “really bent over backwards in order to give this defendant a very light sentence.” We speak with Michele Landis Dauber and read part of the powerful statement Turner’s victim delivered in court.”
Vox: Brock Turner’s sexual assault victim explains why she’s remaining anonymous “Turner’s accuser: “I am every woman.“ ”
Buzzfeed News: Joe Biden Writes An Open Letter To Stanford Survivor.
“The vice president, in an open letter sent to BuzzFeed News, said “a lot of people failed“ the Stanford sexual assault survivor and that she will “save lives“ thanks to the powerful message she read to her assailant in court.”