You can distill the essential contours of the Brock Turner case as follows:
- Boy and girl consume alcohol at party
- Boy escorts highly inebriated girl out of said party
- Boy takes sexual advantage of girl, who is now unconscious, without her consent
Admittedly, this scenario aligns with the victim’s perspective. It doesn’t take into account Turner’s claim that he was just as inebriated and didn’t know what he was doing, and in fact, as Turner asserted, everything was consensual to boot.
But, given that the jury ultimately found him guilty, the above scenario fits.
The judge gave him six months in county lock-up. He could be out in three.
Remember, the jury convicted him of having committed three offenses:
- Assault with intent to rape an intoxicated woman
- Sexually penetrating an intoxicated person with a foreign object
- Sexually penetrating an unconscious person with a foreign object
But these offenses, as expressed above, are merely abstract concepts.
For a very detailed and personal view of what happened to the victim last year on the campus of Stanford University, read her 7,000-word account on Buzzfeed, which she delivered as a powerful Victim Impact Statement on June 2, the day Judge Aaron Persky sentenced Turner to six months in county lock-up.
With good behavior, etc., Turner could be out in three.
Did the judge get it right?
On its face, Turner got off easy – not even a year in prison for what he did. But here’s what people don’t mention as often:
- The probation officer recommended a moderate sentence based on the facts of the case, which include the absence of a criminal record and the remorse Turner has expressed. A judge is obligated to consider probation’s recommendation and balance it among competing arguments for justice.
- Turner must register as a sex offender on the registry for life, which will have lasting and far-reaching consequences.
- Turner has years hanging over his head. If he violates the terms of his probation after his release, he faces serious time in prison.
Did the judge get it wrong?
One of the most difficult issues in sex crime cases (and in criminal law generally) is getting the “balance of justice” part right. In other words, Turner’s sentencing. Many are outraged at how Turner seems to have gotten away with murder, so to speak, despite the irrevocable violation of the victim’s personhood. The prosecutor, after all, had asked for six years in prison.
Thus, you have efforts like the call to remove Judge Persky from the bench and state lawmakers pushing to close a legal loophole that led to the dropping of the more serious rape charges, which otherwise likely would have led to greater punishment (there was no genital-to-genital contact in this case).
The victim, however, likely doesn’t feel there’s much of a difference, which points to a truism: There are no winners in a case such as this.