By now, the Brock Turner case has become notorious. In 2016, Turner, a Stanford student caught raping an unconscious woman on campus, was sentenced to just six months in prison, only three of which he actually served. The short sentence, delivered by Santa Clara County Judge Aaron Persky, was ridiculed for being disproportionately light. Now, Persky has defended his decision, comparing it to the court case that ended segregation in public schools.
In June, voters will determine whether or not Persky should be recalled, or removed from office. After saying nothing about the case for more than a year, the judge defended himself at a press conference in Palo Alto on May 8th. Persky, who has served in his position for 14 years, said the “amount of backlash” to the decision surprised him, and argued that the recall was unjust because judges should be free to make rulings without fearing retaliation. As an example, Persky mentioned Brown v. Board of Education, the landmark court decision that desegregated schools in the 1950s.
“Brown v. Board of Education was unpopular in many states,” he said at the press conference. “Imagine for a moment if those federal judges had been faced with judicial recall in the face of that unpopularity.”
Stanford law professor Michele Dauber spearheaded the campaign to recall Persky. In a statement to BuzzFeed News, she said that the judge’s comparison of the case to Brown v. Board of Education was “absurd.”
During his trial, Turner wrote a statement to Persky arguing that alcohol and a “partying culture” had led to the violent act he committed. When Persky delivered his sentence, he stated that he felt that Turner’s judgment had been impaired and that prison would have a “severe impact” on the student, and these decisions contributed to Turner’s lenient sentence.
Persky’s fate as a judge now rests in the hands of voters. Even if he is recalled from the bench, nothing can fix the pain Turner caused to his victim. The Turner case is a reminder that, when it comes to sexual assault, we need to believe women when they speak out.