Justice

People Want the Judge of the Stanford Attacker Case to Be Removed

June 7th 2016

By:
Alex Mierjeski

Five days after Santa Clara County Superior Court Judge Aaron Persky sentenced a Stanford University student to only 6 months in county jail for sexually assaulting an unconscious classmate, many Americans remain outraged by the decision.

Now they're turning that outrage into action.

Petition Numbers

On Tuesday morning, a Change.org petition calling for Persky's removal from the bench had more than 400,000 signatures at the time of writing.

Here's why this petition could actually matter.

Persky is running unopposed for reelection sometime next year. Judges are rarely recalled, the Los Angeles Times notes, but the petition seeks to take advantage of the three options available to voters. According to the petition, here are the ways judges can actually be booted from the bench:

  • "Judges may be impeached by the assembly and convicted by two thirds of the senate."
  • "Judges are subject to recall election."
  • "The commission on judicial performance investigates complaints of judicial misconduct and incapacity and may privately admonish, suspend, censure, retire, or remove a judge. The commission's decisions are subject to review by the supreme court."

While this petition could motivate legislators to initiate items 1 and 3 on this list, a separate petition would need to be launched by citizens through official government channels in California to actually get Persky placed on a recall ballot.

The six month sentence Persky handed down to Stanford University student Brock Turner for sexually assaulting an unconscious woman behind a dumpster has dominated online conversation since last Thursday.

Serious doubt has been cast on the leniency of the sentence, which judge Persky defended last week, saying that a harsher "prison sentence would have a severe impact on him. I think he will not be a danger to others."

But it's that interpretation of "severe impact" that has onlookers fuming, and calling for Persky's removal.

A statement included in the petition reads:

"Judge Persky failed to see that the fact that Brock Turner is a white male star athlete at a prestigious university does not entitle him to leniency. He also failed to send the message that sexual assault is against the law regardless of social class, race, gender or other factors."

Sympathetic letters written to judge Persky by Turner's friends and family have been called out as influencing factors in the light sentence. The Guardian newspaper also revealed Persky to be a Stanford University alumnus, where he was captain of the lacrosse team — a fact the petition highlights as a factor contributing to possible bias.

The petition follows a pointed letter written by the victim and read in court, which subsequently went viral after being published by BuzzFeed. In the lengthy statement, the victim accuses the court of being swayed by Turner's race and social standing.

"The fact that Brock was an athlete at a private university should not be seen as an entitlement to leniency, but as an opportunity to send a message that sexual assault is against the law regardless of social class," the letter reads.