The "Stanford Swimmer" Label Won't Fly

Early Friday morning, after serving just three months of his six-month sentence for felony sexual assault, Brock Turner walked out of the California jail where he’d been incarcerated. Turner was released early for good behavior, which sparked outrage and disgust on Twitter. Tempers flared over not only the fact that Turner was released early, but at some media outlets' characterization of Turner as a “former Stanford student” or “Stanford swimmer” — and not as a felon.

The Turner case has been at the epicenter of a national conversation about sexual assault on college campuses. The case received national attention after a letter by the victim went viral on the internet. The trial fell under even greater scrutiny when, after prosecutors had asked for a sentence of six years, Judge Aaron Persky sentenced Turner to six months. Protests following the sentencing called for Persky to be recalled.

With Friday’s release, however, came with an extra dose of outrage as news outlets across the spectrum identified Turner as anything but a convicted criminal. Time’s headline read “Stanford swimmer Brock Turner to be released from jail Friday.” The Boston Globe similarly wrote “Ex-Stanford swimmer leaves jail after serving half his term.” Reaction to the erasure of Turner’s rape conviction in the media was swift and furious:

So far, though, only a few news outlets have caught on to the message.

We’ll see if we start seeing more headlines like this one from NBC — "Brock Turner, Convicted Sexual Assault Offender, Released From Jail After 3 Months" —throughout the day.

Image: Santa Clara Sheriff's Department