A formal review board cleared Judge Aaron Persky, the Santa Clara judge who ruled in the Brock Turner case, of judicial misconduct in December. Persky’s sentencing of the former Stanford swimmer to just six months in jail for the sexual assault of an unconscious woman embroiled him in an onslaught of social criticism and controversy. While the California Commission cleared the judge, this and his previous rulings in sexual assault cases continue to draw ire.
In their 12-page report, the commission defended Judge Aaron Persky’s sentencing saying it was within the “parameters set by law and was therefore within the judge’s discretion.”
The Brock Turner Case
Over one million people called for the investigation and ultimate removal of Judge Persky after the Turner ruling. Jurors convicted Turner, 21, on three felony counts: intent to commit rape, sexual penetration with a foreign object of an intoxicated person and sexual penetration with a foreign object of an unconscious person. He faced a maximum sentence of 14 years in prison but received six months in jail. He served just three months before his release in September.
In addition to this jail time, Persky sentenced Turner to three years’ probation and required registration as a sex offender. During sentencing, Persky opined that Turner was not a danger to others. He commented that “a prison sentence would have a severe impact on him.”
The California Commission on Judicial Performance reviewed this and four other Persky cases. They concluded, “that there is not clear and convincing evidence of bias, abuse of authority, or other basis to conclude that Judge Persky engaged in judicial misconduct warranting discipline.”
The Public Fires Back
His fiercest critics disagree. “We believe that the record is completely clear that Judge Persky has a long record of failing to take violence against women seriously, and we will demonstrate when we launch the campaign early next year,” said Stanford law professor Michelle Dauber. “We believe that voters support the recall and replace Persky.”
In fact, the people have already moved to prevent a repeat of such a ruling. In 2016, California lawmakers expanded the definition of rape and increased penalties for offenders who assault unconscious victims. Potential jurors refused to work with Judge Persky and prosecutors removed him from a similar sexual assault case. In September, Persky requested a move from criminal cases altogether and now presides over San Jose civil cases.
So regardless of the review’s report, it is clear the public found more than enough evidence of judicial misconduct. As such, they are issuing their own forms of discipline.