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June 3, 2018

Lots worth reading on eve of historic recall vote of Califorinia Judge Aaron Persky after his lenient treatment of Brock Turner

Regular readers surely already know a lot of the story and backstory surrounding the controversial sentencing of Brock Turner and the controversial recall campaign against the judge who sentenced him.  That recall campaign culminates in a vote this coming Tuesday, and that has prompted another notable round of media coverage.  Here are some recent media pieces with varying degrees of depth:

From CNN here, "Will voters bench the judge who gave a 6-month sentence in the Stanford sexual assault case?"

From the Los Angeles Times here, "Vandalism, threats, broken friendships: The heated campaign to recall judge in Brock Turner case"

From Vox here, "Brock Turner was sentenced to 6 months in jail for sexual assault. Now voters may recall the judge."

From HuffPost here, "When the Punishment Feels Like A Crime: Brock Turner's twisted legacy — and a Stanford professor's relentless pursuit of justice."

I would especially encourage readers to find the time to read the lengthy HuffPost piece, which is particularly focused around Stanford Law Professor Michele Dauber's work on the recall campaign.  The reporting in the piece stuck me as particularly thoughtful and balanced, and I learned new things big and small about the campaign and her efforts and goals.

Despite all this new reporting, I must note my own sense that there are still lots of angles on this case that are still not getting fully explored.  In particular, these articles and others only give passing mention of the fact that Turner was sentenced to a lifetime on the sex offender registry.  I have long speculated that this reality — which I believe was mandatory for his convictions — not only may have largely accounted for Judge Persky's short jail sentence, but also may have been a main reason Turner was unwilling to plead guilty and accept responsibility in the way the victim wished.  Ever since BuzzFeed published the full courtroom statement of Turner's victim (available here and recommended reading), I have always been struck by this passage: "Had Brock admitted guilt and remorse and offered to settle early on, I would have considered a lighter sentence, respecting his honesty, grateful to be able to move our lives forward. Instead he took the risk of going to trial, added insult to injury and forced me to relive the hurt as details about my personal life and sexual assault were brutally dissected before the public."   This passage still has me wondering about what kind of plea had been offered to Turner and whether the prospect of a lifetime on the sex offender registry was central to his decision to go to trial.

The CNN article linked above does make one (possibly overstated) point about the sex offender registry part of his punishment: "That's a penalty so burdensome that if Turner were to have children someday, he wouldn't be able to get near their school."  Of course, being on the registry for life means a whole lot more, too.  I continue to wonder not only if that reality influenced Judge Persky, but if other judges in California or around the nation regularly adjust their prison terms knowing the severe impact of the collateral consequences of sex offender registration.  I hear stories all the time of prosecutors and defense attorneys looking to "charge or plea around" particular crimes that carry sex offender registration or other severe collateral consequences.  If these collateral sanctions influence attorneys, surely they influence sentencing judges in various settings in various ways.  I would love to see more reporting on this element of the Turner case and Judge Persky's decision-making (recalling that Persky himself has been a state sex crimes prosecuot).  But perhaps only a sentencing nerd like me really cares all that much about this part of the story. 

In any event, readers can gear up for the recall election also by reviewing a number of prior posts here about the Brock Turner case.  I think it is fair to say that in these posts I have expressed various concerns about both the lenient sentence Turner received and about the campaign to recall Judge Persky.  Here is just a sampling of the prior posts this case has generated:

June 3, 2018 at 11:18 AM | Permalink


"That's a penalty so burdensome that if Turner were to have children someday, he wouldn't be able to get near their school."

So, no matter what state [or country?] he lives in, the terms hold?

A person with means like him can live with this badge of infamy more.

I also personally wouldn't trade it for even a few years locked in a small cage where fellow prisoners might hear I am a sex offender (in certain cases ones who likes children). Others might disagree though for most it would be theoretical.

Anyway, I'm very wary of this recall effort but not the Huffington Post article:

"To convince voters that Persky was unfit for the bench, Dauber knew she needed to demonstrate that Turner’s sentence was not an isolated bad decision."

It isn't just based on this one case.

Posted by: Joe | Jun 3, 2018 12:17:36 PM

They hung out for hours. They were drunk. They made love. One fell asleep. No crime was even committed.

This recall is the feminists getting upset by heterosexual sex.

Posted by: David Behar | Jun 3, 2018 1:26:21 PM

Joe. I am wary of the recall. But, it is not based on this one case.

Catch this masterpiece of modern music before Berman deletes this again.


Posted by: David Behar | Jun 3, 2018 1:29:42 PM

"But perhaps only a sentencing nerd like me really cares all that much about this part of the story."

You are not the only one but as for myself I have long given up any hope that anything will change in my lifetime. We are too few and viewed by our culture as too anomalous to have any influence.

Posted by: Daniel | Jun 3, 2018 2:25:16 PM

"Stanford Law Professor Michele Dauber"

A powerful woman exploiting a weaker woman for her own gain. Let's us all be clear here, whether the judge gets impeached or not is irrelevant to her. What she is interested in doing is burnishing her credentials as a fighter for "social justice" (her version of it, anyway) among her academic colleagues and her feminist colleagues. It is they and not the public who is her actual audience. Win or lose she'll be able to command higher speaking fees and bigger audiences in the future.

Posted by: Daniel | Jun 3, 2018 2:32:21 PM

Daniel: I love this. Feminists vs the hierarchy of the legal profession.


"Over the next year and a half, Dauber raised more than $1 million from over 5,000 donors, most of whom contributed less than $100. She mobilized scores of volunteers and won endorsements from local politicians, unions and prominent feminists, including Kirsten Gillibrand, Lena Dunham and Anita Hill. This January, having accumulated nearly 95,000 signatures, Dauber got the recall on the ballot in Santa Clara County for the June 5 election.

The Me Too movement has supercharged Dauber’s campaign. But it has also fueled the opposition to her effort—joined by much of the state’s legal establishment—and created a deep hostility toward Dauber and her tactics. On February 14, a letter arrived at Dauber’s Stanford office. The message inside read, “Since you are going to disrobe Persky, I am going to treat you like ‘Emily Doe.’ Let’s see what kind of sentencing I get for being a rich white male.” A white powder fell from the envelope."

Posted by: David Behar | Jun 3, 2018 4:05:26 PM

Berman: "I have expressed various concerns about both the lenient sentence Turner received and about the campaign to recall Judge Persky."

Sentencing reform is less desirable when it offends a feminist.

Posted by: David Behar | Jun 3, 2018 4:09:04 PM

The feminist was radicalized at Stanford Law, but does not have a California license.

Posted by: David Behar | Jun 4, 2018 12:04:53 AM

This interesting discussion recalls the study a few years back that found that introduction of the sex offender registry in SC created a spike in the no. of defendants who pled down to non-sex crimes--not exactly a great result: https://www.postandcourier.com/news/report-looks-at-sex-offender-registry/article_50f76fa8-98b9-5c54-844b-1893e69f5eba.html

Posted by: Steven Yoder | Jun 6, 2018 7:45:11 PM

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