Written by Janet Wang and Sohini Ashoke
On Sept. 2, the Committee to Recall Judge Persky organized a rally at the Santa Clara County Hall of Justice in San Jose to recall Santa Clara County Judge Aaron Persky for his ruling in the Brock Turner case. e date marked Turner’s release from county jail a er serving three months of his six month sentence for assault with intent to rape and sexually penetrating an intoxicated and unconscious person with a foreign object.
Turner, a former swimmer at Stanford University, was found guilty of his crimes in March. Turner and the anonymous female victim, “Emily Doe, ” were at a Kappa Alpha fraternity party, where he was spotted assaulting her unconscious body near two cyclists passing by. Persky gave Turner what many view as a lenient six month sentence, while prosecutors suggested six years, but he was released a er three months due to “good behavior” according to Persky.
In light of the Turner ruling, Stanford Law School Profes- sor Michele Dauber founded the Committee to Recall Judge Persky. Dauber believes that the rally showed the community how unreasonable Turner’s sentence was. “The short sentence Brock Turner received shows just how biased Aaron Persky is and how just because Brock Turner is a white, privileged and elite athlete at Stanford, that the rules didn’t apply to him and he could receive special treatment,” she said.
Dauber says that this rally holds a special place for the members of the Palo Alto community considering the victim’s connection to the area. “ e victim is a [PAUSD] alumna, and a member of our community,” she said. “She is no different than anyone you went to school with. I have known her since she was in elementary school—she is an intelligent and overall amazing person. is is an absolute outrage, and she could be any of your friends.”
The Oracle senior News Editor Jenna Marvet attended the rally and believes that the cause is relevant to high school students. “Anyone who is in school, college or high school, should be aware of sentencing relating to campus sexual assault, especially with this assault happening so close to home,” Marvet said. “It is pertinent that students are aware so they can take action to prevent stories like this one in the future.”
Palo Alto Mayor Patrick Burt, who heard about the rally from the leaders of the Recall Aaron Persky movement, was a speaker at the event. Burt discussed the importance of judges refraining from bias in their cases—something that Persky is accused of having.
Persky has previously given lenient sentences to white male defendants involved in sex crimes, such as in People v. James Chain in which he gave a four-day sentence to a man who possessed a video of sexual violation of an infant and other pornographic videos of minors, even though the District Attorney suggested two years in prison. In a 2007 trial concerning a gang rape by De Anza college baseball players, preceded by Persky, he ruled photos of the victim in “revealing” clothing at a party as relevant evidence.
“It’s become increasingly apparent that Judge Persky has a whole pattern of unusual leniency in different sorts of sex crime cases depending on the background of the defendants,” Burt said. “I think that if [the Brock Turner] case were an
anomaly within that pattern of the rulings that Judge Persky has, I would probably not be supportive of the recall.”
According to Burt, the Turner case and the recall is especially relevant to the high school and college age group. “These are the sorts of situations people in their late teens and early twenties in college may be encountering, so we’re going to protect people from this and we’re going to hold perpetrators responsible,” he said.
Stanford Association of Student Sexual Assault Prevention co-founder Stephanie Pham also spoke at the event. By bringing together advocates and people who support survivors of sexual assault, Pham says that the rally will allow everyone to channel their emotions towards issues of how the legal system handles sex crimes and Persky’s decisions.
Pham says that high school students should be aware of sexual assault violence and rape culture. “This normalization of violence against women begins very early on,” she said. “Students are coming into college with an array of ideas in regard to women, in regard to sex and sexual violence, and it’s time that this conversation starts before college—before students step onto their university campus.”
For Pham, a successful recall of Judge Persky does not finish the work in preventing lenient rulings in sexual assault cases. “Judge Persky’s decisions have really just continued violence against women and further silences survivors and discourages reporting,” Pham said. “He’s only one example of a judge, of one man, who doesn’t think that sexual assault is a violent offense. It’s going to take so much more energy and effort in order to eradicate rape and sexual violence in all communities.”