Brock Turner juror tells judge 'shame on you' for short sentence; who's right?

The juror addressed the letter to Judge Aaron Persky, writing he was 'absolutely shocked and appalled' at the six-month sentence imposed on the former swim star. 

Jason Doiy/The Recorder via AP
Santa Clara County Superior Court Judge Aaron Persky sentenced Brock Turner to six months in jail for sexual assault. One juror, who felt the punishment wasn't severe enough, wrote 'shame on you' in a letter he addressed to Judge Persky.

One member of the jury that convicted former Stanford University swimmer Brock Turner was "absolutely shocked and appalled" at the "lenient," six-month sentence Judge Aaron Persky imposed for the crime, the juror wrote in a letter addressed to Mr. Persky.

"Shame on you," writes the juror, who asked to remain anonymous to protect his privacy. "After the guilty verdict, I expected that this case would serve as a very strong deterrent to on-campus assaults. But with the ridiculously lenient sentence that Brock Turner received, I am afraid that it makes a mockery of the whole trial and the ability of the justice system to protect victims of assault and rape."

"Clearly there are few to no consequences for a rapist even if they are caught in the act of assaulting a defenseless, unconscious person," he adds.

The juror provided the letter he addressed to Persky to the Palo Alto Weekly, in addition to meeting with the California newspaper Saturday.

The juror joins a long list of censurers of Persky, who is even the subject of a recall campaign to remove him from the bench because of the sentence he handed down. The juror's letter, which adds to public outcry over the leeway some say Persky exercised, raises the question: How much latitude should a judge have during sentencing?

Although she agreed that a six-month sentence is a "slap on the wrist," defense attorney Toni Messina argued – writing on the legal blog Above the Law – that one sentence is not grounds to recall a judge or deprive all judges of discretion in sentencing.

"The judge is the only person in the system charged with viewing the case neutrally and taking all the information from both sides into account," writes Messina, in a post published Monday. "He must look at the defendant as an individual, with all his good and bad points. He must maintain the ability to do that and not be swayed by popular opinion, no matter how strong that might be."

Persky has been under fire ever since he found Turner's age (20), his lack of criminal history, and his drunken state at the time of the incident warranted a six-month sentence, in addition to probation and sex offender registration. "A prison sentence would have a severe impact on him," said Persky.

In the public eye, Persky's opinion, as well as a letter Turner's father wrote to defend his son's character and actions, was out of sync with the 12-page letter the victim's sister, known as Emily Doe, read aloud to describe the assault, in which Turner was found on top of an unconscious Ms. Doe outside a fraternity party on Stanford’s campus.

All 12 jurors found Turner guilty of three counts of sexual assault. The prosecution recommended Turner serve six years in jail. Persky agreed with Turner's probation officer for the six-month sentence, less than the "mandatory minimum." 

With millions of signatures on the petition to recall Persky, Persky's judicial record is under scrutiny. His sentencing record is varied, the San Jose Mercury News found.  

Though Persky has been criticized for preferential treatment of Turner, in December, Persky sentenced Michael Lee Simpson, a white office worker, to 30 years and eight months in prison for raping a stranger who was waiting for a ride one night. Among defense attorneys, Persky is known to spare relatively low-level offenders of color from prison, according to the San Jose Mercury News. However, moments before he sentenced Turner, Persky imposed a sentence of 72 days of "weekend jail" to a man in a domestic violence case.

One female public defender, the first gay woman to hold the position in the county Stanford is in, and a known feminist, came to Persky's defense. Molly O'Neal told the San Jose Mercury News the jury verdict of guilty vindicated the victim. Nothing would be gained by sentencing Turner to more prison.

"We lock more people up in the United States than anywhere else in the world,'' she said. "To what end in this case?''

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