The movement to sanction Santa Clara County Superior Court judge Aaron Persky for his sentence against Stanford swimmer Brock Turner on a sexual assault conviction persisted Wednesday, as protesters delivered a complaint to the commission that could remove him.
Persky sentenced Turner in June to six months in jail for three felony counts of sexual assault, drawing international outrage. Persky has since faced intense scrutiny, recusing himself Tuesday from a child pornography case, which would have been his first key decision in a sex crime case since the Stanford ruling.
Holding ‘pink slips’ for Persky in front of the state office building housing the California Commission on Judicial Performance, glassy-eyed protesters took turns reading the stark, viral letter that Turner’s anonymous victim read in court:
“You don’t know me but you’ve been inside me and that’s why we’re here today.”
After the group — organized by Ultraviolet and Care2 — delivered the victim’s statement and a formal complaint to the commission to remove Persky, Jacqueline Patterson, a rape survivor who read a portion of the statement out loud said:
“[The reading] meant giving a voice to women and saying we are not going to tolerate leniency for rapists. We are not going to stop until our goal is accomplished.”
They were met with a sole counter-protester, who felt the attacks on a judge for his decisions were unfair. A man who identified himself only as Mark, a San Francisco resident and defense attorney, said he has a daughter who attends Stanford University.
“If judges have to worry every time they’ll have to grant leniency, we’re going to have more incarceration. For a person who didn’t have a criminal record, [the sentence] is not outside the bounds of reason.”
Those calling for a recall accuse Persky of showing racial bias in his rulings. According to the Guardian, Persky resided over a similar case involving a 32-year-old from El Salvador, Raul Ramirez, who was sentenced to three years in prison.
Court documents show Persky followed the probation officer’s recommendation and acted within his judicial authority. Sharon Meadows, professor and director of the Criminal and Juvenile Justice Law Clinic at University of San Francisco School of Law, said those facts lead her to believe the commission will not act:
“I don’t think that he’s done anything that the judicial council would remove him for. While I disagree strongly with his opinion, the only way to remove a judge in this instance would be a recall.”
The 11-member commission has the power only to investigate and discipline misconduct, such as corruption, and does not have authority to change a ruling.
This month, the Joint Legislative Audit Committee unanimously approved an audit of the commission itself. Kathleen Russell, executive director of Center for Judicial Excellence, which pushed for the audit, said the commission has not properly been monitoring the courts for racial bias:
“Judicial independence and accountability have to go hand in hand. He can’t just continue to recuse himself — there’s already a backlog.”
A commission spokeswoman Wednesday declined to comment.
Because Santa Clara county inmates with good behavior typicallyserve half of their sentences, Turner is expected to be released next Friday, according to online records.
Bay City News contributed information to this report.