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June 7, 2016

Lots more mainstream and new media commentary on lenient sentencing of Stanford sex assaulter

The discussion of last week's lenient sentencing of a former Stanford University student convicted of multiple counts of sexual assault (basics here) has continued to generate notable mainstream and new media stories.  Here is a round up of reads some of the latest reads that I found interesting:

I also thought worth reprinting was this comment from "Joe R" deep into the comment thread of my last post about this controversial case:

Dude will be on the sex offender registry for life with a violent felony. His life is essentially over. As countless sex offenders have demonstrated with their actions by committing suicide, life in America on the registry is a fate often worse than death.

Rest assured all of you expressing outrage, this kid's life is over, and he has little to no prospect of an enjoyable fulfilling life. He is being severely punished, and hasn't gotten away with anything.

June 7, 2016 at 10:00 PM | Permalink


Shaun King's article is idiotic. It's impossible to compare the two sentences since they were from different jurisdictions. I wonder what Mr. King would think of Olu Stevens' hooking up of two armed home invaders and his subsequent abuse of the victims.

Posted by: federalist | Jun 8, 2016 9:47:46 AM

Brock Allen Turner: The Sort of Defendant Who Is Spared “Severe Impact”


This provides a ["a" as in a single on; not speaking for all] defense attorney view.

"Despite what Hollywood would lead you to believe, we criminal defense attorneys do not advocate lenient sentences for all wrongdoers as a matter of policy. Many of our clients are frequently victims of crime themselves, and their lives are circumscribed by criminal environments. We don’t believe, in the abstract, that people who tear the clothes off of young women and violate them in the dirt next to a dumpster should go free. Our role is to stand beside our clients, no matter who they are or what they did, and be their advocates, the one person required to plead their case and argue their interests."

etc. (h/t Randy Balko and Irin Carmon)

Posted by: Joe | Jun 8, 2016 1:18:48 PM

If we want to talk about privileged men and rape, we ought to have an honest conversation about Bill Clinton. When we were told that his assaults -- not just affairs, but assaults -- did not matter because he did other good things or had the right views, we sold our souls. That the Stanford stories this week coincide with the nomination of Bill's chief enabler is sickeningly appropriate.

Posted by: Perplexed | Jun 8, 2016 3:16:52 PM

Regarding Joe R's comments: For all those who are less priveledged and who are sitting in prison doing more time for lesser crimes, NO, this kid wasn't punished enough, and Yes, he has gotten away with something.

Can only hope that those in prison doing the 5-10 mandatory minimum that this kid should have gotten, will survive prison and even though on the registry, someone will give them a chance so they don't become a suicide statistic.

The registry needs to end.

Posted by: kat | Jun 8, 2016 4:55:57 PM

I wonder what the guideline range would be for a similar federal offense - e.g., if someone committed the same acts
on federal land.

Posted by: lawyer | Jun 8, 2016 9:44:29 PM

Just saw that the Cassell piece has the guideline calculation: 97-121 months.

Posted by: lawyer | Jun 8, 2016 9:58:44 PM

After digging to find the facts adduced at trial (which I found in the Stanford Daily), I'm still somewhat surprised he was convicted of anything. To wit:

"Turner was reportedly discovered on top of the alleged victim at about 12:55 a.m. by two male graduate students who were biking by. The students reported thinking 'it was a mutual interaction at first' but noticed that the alleged victim was not moving and confronted Turner.

"Kristine Setterland, one of the Sexual Assault Response Team (SART) nurses who examined both Doe and Turner shortly after the incident, also testified on Friday. She described abrasions on Doe’s body consistent with 'penetrating trauma' but said she could not be confident as to what caused the trauma.

"Lee examined items in SART kits collected from both Doe and Turner, as well as Doe’s underwear, which police found lying on the ground next to Doe when they arrived at KA. Lee detected no semen in the underwear or in vaginal, cervical, rectal and oral swabs taken from Doe. Lee said it was not possible to test whether skin cells from Turner were present in Doe’s vaginal and cervical swabs. Lee discovered a mixture of at least two individuals’ DNA on the underwear’s waistband. The DNA present in larger amounts matched with Doe, while the DNA present in smaller amounts did not seem to match with Turner, assuming that it represented the DNA of only one person. However, Lee did find DNA matching Doe’s in swabs taken from Turner’s finger and fingernails."

Otherwise, Doe was unable to testify to anything about the encounter. Likewise, while she was passed out when the witnesses encountered the two, they obviously can't say what happened before they came on the scene; and it seems apparent that she got to the location of the incident under her own power. In other words, there's no evidence that Turner transported her, or secreted her, there.

On these facts, and given the conviction (which on these facts seemed like no sure thing), I'm inclined to think the sentence was entirely defensible.

Posted by: Wong Sun | Jun 8, 2016 10:31:39 PM

Wong Sun, he was convicted of something, though. Three things:

"The Ohio native was convicted of assault with intent to commit rape of an intoxicated woman, sexually penetrating an intoxicated person with a foreign object and sexually penetrating an unconscious person with a foreign object."

If you think the evidence isn't there for prosecution, okay, but he was prosecuted. Are you saying some sort of residual doubt means a lesser sentence?

Posted by: Joe | Jun 8, 2016 11:13:45 PM

also as Prof. Berman noted, the defendant's stance (including signs of lack of remorse) factored in. Also, the fact he didn't transport her doesn't change the basic things he was convicted of. The "alleged victim was not moving and confronted Turner" part sort of helps the conviction too. So, even some of the facts are of limited help to the defense.

Posted by: Joe | Jun 8, 2016 11:21:53 PM

Joe, I'm saying that it's appropriate for the judge to consider the facts of the case in imposing sentence. In other words, are we dealing with an equivocal set of facts or an aggravated set of facts? In my view, this has equivocal written all over it. While it was enough to go to a jury, it was hardly overwhelming and compelling. That is, while he admitted to digital penetration, no evidence exists showing WHEN that occurred. It could well have been before she passed out. We simply don't know. And, as set forth above, there is every reason to believe that the two ended up where they were, both voluntarily, BEFORE she passed out.
As for lack of remorse, if his version of events is what happened, then why would he be remorseful? The fact that a jury convicted him doesn't mean that what he said happened isn't what happened.

Posted by: Wong Sun | Jun 9, 2016 7:23:38 AM

I disagree with Joe R's comment about the registry. While I oppose them as a matter of principle I think it will have no impact on this person's life. He will still graduate, he will go one to be employed by his dad or his daddy's friends, and in five years this "unpleasantness" will be over for him. It is just wrong to assert that the SOR effect all people the same. They don't. In fact, it is the reality that they have a disproportionate impact of people with the least cultural capital that I oppose them in principle.

"this kid's life is over, and he has little to no prospect of an enjoyable fulfilling life. He is being severely punished, and hasn't gotten away with anything."

I think that might be true for the average kid but I don't think it is true for this kid.

Posted by: Daniel | Jun 9, 2016 4:26:32 PM

I believe, Daniel, that Turner was thrown out of Stanford and I wonder if many other colleges will be especially eager to admit him anytime soon. Thus, he certainly will not be graduating anytime soon.

That said, I think you are 100% right that a person's "cultural capital" impacts how an SOR and other post-conviction realities impact a future. But then again, "cultural capital" impacts a life-course even without any problems with the law. And I sense that lifetime SOR realities are not a walk in the park for anyone.

Posted by: Doug B. | Jun 9, 2016 11:22:50 PM

Thanks for the reply, Wong Sun.

As suggested, even the selected facts in your reply only helps in to some degree. And, others can provide more evidence to show why the three convictions were correct. If they didn't occur, challenge the conviction.

I'm just not sure how "non-aggravating" this would be by definition: "The Ohio native was convicted of assault with intent to commit rape of an intoxicated woman, sexually penetrating an intoxicated person with a foreign object and sexually penetrating an unconscious person with a foreign object." And, the short sentence was already reduced by a couple months.

As to remorse, you basically sound like you are saying if he's innocent, he shouldn't be remorseful. First, even if he was legally innocent, it's unclear if his response was warranted by what was at best lousy judgment that led to harm to the woman. Second, that's how it works -- he was convicted. Sentencing involves taking into consideration the remorse of the person.


The sex registry will affect his life -- the truth is imho in between the two extremes. For instance, a sex offender to my understanding would be blocked from various places where he would go with his own child or child in his family. Hard to see how being a sex offender would not be somewhat of a drag on one's marriage potential though surely one can find a sympathetic person. OTOH, who is to know how long lasting the rules will be, at least all the strictness in place. And, ideally, especially in some states, reform will occur including revocation of life time labels after a certain period of time.

Posted by: Joe | Jun 10, 2016 10:29:23 AM

I'd add that some of the coverage noted details like him lying to the police (or changing his story) that adds to the overall sentiment that he shouldn't have gotten leniency.

Posted by: Joe | Jun 10, 2016 10:30:54 AM

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