The judge who courted controversy by handing Stanford rapist Brock Turner a seemingly lenient sentence of just six months in jail has been sensationally removed from his post by voters, in a result that hasn’t happened in the state of California for some 80-odd years.
Judge Aaron Persky was binned from his post by voters in Santa Clara County following a recall election that was called for by members of the community incensed at his perceived leniency shown to Turner in the highly controversial case.
Persky handed Turner a six-month jail sentence on three counts of felony sexual assault in June of 2016, of which Turner served only three months before walking free.
Persky has repeatedly stated he has no regrets about his handling of the trial; he cited Turner’s age, lack of prior criminal record, and the fact that both he (and more worringly) his victim were intoxicated as mitigating factors for the light sentence. Turner’s charges carried a maximum of 14 years in prison, and prosecutors in the case had asked for a 6-year sentence in their court submissions.
Judge Persky was cleared of wrongdoing and misconduct by the California Commission on Judicial Performance, after an investigation into the case was completed.
However, in the United States county judges are publicly elected, and as such their positions are subject to review should the community demand it.
Efforts to recall Persky began in June last year; community leaders began gathering the signatures needed to force a recall election on Persky’s position. After successfully gathering the 58,634 signatures – representing 20% of the voting population in Santa Clara County – inside just 160 days, the election was called.
Stanford law professor Michele Dauber, who helped found and spearhead the recall campaign, posted a photo on Twitter late yesterday in front of a TV showing a wide margin of the vote stood in favour of recalling Persky.
Recall elections are exceedingly rare in the United States, and in particular in California. Persky’s recalling is the first such binning of an elected county judge in California in 80 years. It has not happened in the wider United States since 1977.
Two women ran in a separate election to replace Persky in the event of his successful recall, with Cindy Seeley Hendrickson – who Dauber’s campaign endorsed – emerging victorious.
Santa Clara County district attorney Jeff Rosen opposed the recall election, despite also asserting that Persky’s sentence was too lenient.
Brock Turner is serving three years’ probation as part of his sentence, and has had to register as a sex offender in his home state of Ohio. His family is continuing efforts to have his conviction overturned.