Former Stanford University swimmer Brock Turner has asked a state appeals court in San Jose to overturn his sexual assault conviction, claiming that his trial was “fundamentally unfair.”
Turner argued in a 172-page brief filed with the Court of Appeal on Friday that he was denied his right to a fair trial for multiple reasons, which either separately or taken together require reversal of his conviction.
The former member of the Stanford swim team was convicted in Santa Clara County Superior Court last year of three felony counts of assault against a woman who was unconscious from intoxication in a field outside of a fraternity house at the university.
In a judgment that drew widespread public criticism, Judge Aaron Persky sentenced him to six months in jail. Turner, 22, was freed for good behavior after serving about three months of the sentence.
Among other arguments, Turner claims the evidence on all three counts was insufficient, that Persky wrongly denied him the right to present evidence of his good character, and the prosecutor prejudiced the jury by stating the attack took place behind a dumpster.
In fact, Turner and the victim were 20 to 30 feet from the dumpster and in an open field when they were discovered by two Swedish graduate students bicycling by shortly after midnight on Jan. 18, 2015, the appeals brief says.
The prosecutor’s image of the incident occurring “in a squalid and hidden area behind a dumpster must be viewed as both factually unsupportable and malevolently designed to taint the jury,” Turner’s attorney Eric Multhaup wrote in the appeal.
Although Turner has completed his jail time, he is still subject to three years of probation and lifetime registration as a sex offender.
Multhaup said Monday that Turner’s reasons for filing the appeal are the “unfair conviction” and a need to clear his name and overturn the sex offender registration requirement.
Multhaup said he expects the appeal to be resolved by September 2018. That timeframe includes the filing of a response by the state Attorney General’s Office, a hearing before a three-judge appeals panel and then a written decision with 90 days of the hearing.
The appeals court’s decision can be appealed further to the state Supreme Court.
If Turner’s conviction is overturned, the district attorney could seek a new trial, which could pose a risk for Turner of a new conviction and potentially a heavier sentence.
Santa Clara County District Attorney Jeff Rosen said in a statement, “Brock Turner received a fair trial and was justly convicted. His conviction will be upheld.” Turner’s three convictions were for assault with attempt to commit rape, sexual penetration of an intoxicated person with a foreign object, and sexual penetration of an unconscious person with a foreign object.
Stanford law and sociology profess Michele Dauber, who has led a recall campaign against Persky, said, “The jury rejected Turner’s effort to blame the victim. There was overwhelming evidence of his guilt including two eyewitnesses and DNA.” If the recall effort successfully gains enough signatures, the question would be on the county’s June ballot.