Judge responsible for Brock Turner’s light sentence cleared of any misconduct

The frustrating thing about the law is that there’s often a way for shitty people to get away with whatever they’ve done. Like the fact that Judge Persky has been cleared of any misconduct in the sentencing of Brock Turner, who was found guilty of sexually assaulting a girl who was unconscious. In case you’ve been in some magical land far, far away (lucky you!), Turner received only six months for the assault and ended up serving just three.

The media attention over the light sentencing and the subsequent onslaught of petitions to unseat the judge led to the 11-person panel of the California Commission on Judicial Performance investigating the judge’s behavior. In their 12-page report, they found no evidence of bias, though they did cite the many petitions they received asking them to look for it, reportedly taking each charge under consideration individually.

The panel wrote, “The commission has concluded that there is not clear and convincing evidence of bias, abuse of authority, or other basis to conclude that Judge Persky engaged in judicial misconduct warranting discipline.” See, this is the frustrating thing. How do you prove and then punish the thought process that went into giving a man convicted of three felony sexual assault charges just six months. Apparently you don’t.

The California Commission on Judicial Performance is an independent panel made up of judges and attorneys appointed by governors, state attorneys, and citizens, and members serve terms of 10 years. There are five women on this particular panel. In their review of Persky, the commission took each of the complaints against Persky and broke down his logic during sentencing. According to the committee’s explanatory statement, they were looking at whether:

  1.  Judge Persky abused his authority and displayed bias in his sentencing of Turner;
  2. The sentence was unlawful;
  3. The judge displayed gender bias and failed to take sexual assault of women seriously;
  4. The judge exhibited racial and/or socioeconomic bias because a non-white or less privileged defendant would have received a harsher sentence; and
  5. The judge’s history as a student-athlete at Stanford University caused him to be biased in favor of Turner and that he should have disclosed his Stanford affiliation or disqualified himself from handling the case.

The problem is partly the panel going easy on Persky, since there are other cases in which the judge gave more severe sentences to black men convicted of sexual assault. And that as a white Stanford University man himself, he seemed to have felt more compassion for the defendant than for the victim. But it’s hard to prove that shit.

There are also, obviously, problems with the judicial system overall. Prosecutors asked for six years for the assault. Six months shouldn’t even be an option for sexual assault, let alone three felony charges. That Turner could walk out after just three months is astounding. But that’s not what the commission cared about, because this is the legal system. They were looking to see if there was “clear bias or abuse of authority” on Persky’s part.

Persky’s attorney, Kathleen Ewins, told Oregon Live the commission obviously understood that Persky “made a reasoned, but unpopular, decision.” You could also say the same of sexual assailants.

Michele Dauber, who is leading the recall campaign against Persky, said in a statement, “We strongly disagree with the commission’s conclusion on judicial bias and we believe that Judge Persky has in fact demonstrated a clear pattern of bias in cases of sex crimes and violence against women.”

The California Commission on Judicial Performance just failed women everywhere (and especially in California) by giving Persky a pass on this one. The decision basically endorsed the fact that rape culture is built into the law and sentencing requirements without even giving the guy a slap on the wrist.