Judge Aaron Persky will face a recall vote in June
Remember Brock Turner? He’s the college student who raped an unconscious woman behind a dumpster in 2014. Remember Aaron Persky? He’s the judge who sentenced Turner to just six months in jail for that rape (of which he only served three before being released). Now, thanks to the outrage and activism of residents of Santa Clara County, Judge Persky will face a recall vote this summer.
In 2014, two students came across Turner in the midst of raping an unconscious young woman. He was arrested and faced up to 14 years behind bars. Prosecutors asked for six years. Judge Persky, however, sentenced him to only six months plus probation due to, in part, he said, Turner’s age and lack of criminal history. “A prison sentence would have a severe impact on him,” Persky said. “I think he will not be a danger to others.”
You hear that, young white males? When it comes to rape, Judge Persky says you only get one. Don’t make him punish you or disrupt your life or anything. Eye roll.
Needless to say, people went bonkers. Following Turner’s early release, citizens and elected officials protested outside the Hall of Justice in San Jose, calling for Judge Persky to be recalled. Stanford law professor Michele Dauber led the recall efforts and succeeded in getting 95,000 signatures on a petition within 160 days to put his recall to a vote in the next statewide election on June 5th.
Only 53, 634 signatures were required.
When a judge is recalled, he or she is effectively voted out of office before the end of their term. Judge Persky was automatically reelected to a 6-year term in 2016 when he ran unopposed for Santa Clara County judge. If he is voted out, it will be the first time a California judge has been recalled in 85 years.
Those who are against the recall argue that it would have an effect on judicial independence because judges will hesitate to make unpopular decisions if they fear they might face a recall because of it. But this wasn’t just some “unpopular decision.” This was a miscarriage of justice.
In Turner’s sentencing, Persky said that despite the fact that probation isn’t typically allowed for these kinds of cases unless there are unusual circumstances, he felt it was appropriate because: “the damage [to the victim] is done,” Turner was less “morally culpable” because “alcohol was present,” he didn’t use a weapon, and showed a “lack of criminal sophistication” when committing the crime.
Some of these are factors judges are supposed to use when deciding a sentence, but one would hope that the severity of the crime — as long as one considers rape a severe crime, and it’s not clear Judge Persky does — should outweigh them.
I would say these are damn good reasons to question Persky’s judgment. People are allowed to vote for recalls so that we can curb judicial bias and stand up to judges who make decisions that are not in the best interests of and do not protect their citizens. As Dauber has put it, “This campaign is part of a national social movement to end impunity for privileged perpetrators of sexual assault and violence against women. Judge Persky has exhibited a long pattern of bias with respect to these crimes and has demonstrated he has not taken them seriously. That is why I am confident the voters will recall him in June of 2018.”