This letter is in response to a May 25 letter to the editor about the Recall Judge Persky campaign. In January 2015, two grad students biking through campus found Stanford swimmer Brock Turner in the act of sexually assaulting an unconscious woman behind a dumpster, known as Emily Doe. A 12-person jury unanimously convicted Turner of all three felonies with which he was charged—intent to commit rape of an intoxicated or unconscious person, sexual penetration of an intoxicated person and sexual penetration of an unconscious person.
Judge Aaron Persky gave Brock Turner a six-month jail sentence for the crime, sparking nationwide outrage for what was widely viewed as an unduly lenient outcome.
In spite of Turner’s convictions, Jim McManis, Persky’s lawyer and the largest donor to Persky’s campaign—giving more than half a million dollars—said of Emily Doe, “This woman was not attacked.”
Retired Judge LaDoris Cordell, a spokeswoman for the Persky campaign, claims, “There was no sexual activity behind a dumpster.”
Many from the Persky campaign have referred to Emily Doe’s intoxication level as a justification for Turner’s lenient sentence, shifting the blame of Turner’s crime onto his victim. Judge Persky hasn’t repudiated any of these statements.
The outcome in the Brock Turner case proved to many women that even if you have all of the evidence—the perpetrator is caught in the act, there are independent eyewitnesses, the cops were there on the scene right away, the survivor had a rape kit—you will not find anything resembling justice in the criminal justice system.
The Persky campaign’s repeated use of victim-blaming tactics to distract from Persky’s failings only worsens the misgivings women have about coming forward. As long as Persky’s on the bench, women will continue to believe there’s no use in filing a police report when they’re faced with abuse. He needs to go, and now.
If Judge Persky is recalled this June, his will be only the third successful judicial recall in California history. The vast majority of attempted judicial recalls in California fail due to the prohibitively high threshold of voter signatures needed to qualify for the ballot. This is by design. While provisions like this are put in place to protect judicial independence, the power of voters to recall judges is crucial for maintaining the democratic legitimacy of the judiciary.
California’s judicial system is designed to balance the opposing values of judicial independence and accountability to voters.
Please vote yes to recall Judge Aaron Persky on June 5.