Just about everyone was outraged when former Stanford University student Brock Turner was sentenced to just six months in jail for sexually assaulting an unconscious woman earlier, and the judge who issued the ruling, Aaron Persky, has been roundly condemned for giving Turner such a light slap on the wrist. Now, the Santa Clara County Superior Court judge is facing blowback: On Thursday, about 12 potential jurors in another Persky case refused to participate in the trial, citing the lenient sentence he gave Brock.
Court sources in Palo Alto told ABC that around a dozen individuals up for jury duty in a misdemeanor case over which Persky is presiding stated that they were unwilling to serve due to Persky's decision in the Brock case. Persky dismissed them "quietly," according to ABC.
Persky has become something of a national pariah thanks to the six-month sentence he gave the convicted sexual assault perpetrator. A petition calling for impeachment hearings against him has gathered over 1 million signatures, and according to Gary Goodman, a deputy in the Santa Clara Public Defender's office, Persky himself has started received death threats.
Persky, who recently ran for reelection unopposed, is being criticized not just for issuing such a light sentence, but also for the justification he offered when explaining why the sentence was so light. Persky said that Turner, despite being found guilty of multiple counts of sexual assualt, ought to be spared the "severe impact" that a long prison term would have had on him. Why? Because Turner had "less moral culpability" for his crimes, according to Persky, given that he was drunk when he committed them.
Some people have defended Turner's light sentence. His father, Dan Turner, penned a letter in Brock's defense, insisting that prison was "a steep price to pay for 20 minutes of action out of his 20 plus years of life" — a rather extraordinary claim, given that the elder Turner is a law professor. After the predictable uproar that this caused, North Carolina Pastor John Pavlovitz responded with an open letter to Dan Turner, in which he explained that "there is no scenario where your son should be the sympathetic figure here."
"Brock is not the victim here," wrote the pastor. "His victim is the victim. She is the wounded one. He is the damager."
As for Persky, who hasn't commented publicly on the case, it's too soon to say what the future holds. He was reelected this week in spite of the outcry, and his name will likely fade soon from the public eye. On the other hand, it seems doubtful that he'll be remembered as anything other than "the judge in the Brock Turner case." Persky's legacy as a judge has been solidified, and it's not a good legacy.