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People v. Turner: Judge Aaron Persky

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People v. Turner


Seal of Santa Clara County, California

CourtSanta Clara County Superior Court

Full case namePeople of the State of California v. Brock Allen Turner

IndictmentJanuary 28, 2015, on counts:
1.) Rape of an intoxicated person
2.) Rape of an unconscious person
3.) Assault with intent to rape an intoxicated woman
4.) Raped an intoxicated person with a foreign object
5.) Sexually penetrating an unconscious person with a foreign object

StartedMarch 14, 2016

DecidedMarch 30, 2016

VerdictCount 1.) Withdrawn by prosecution
Count 2.) Withdrawn by prosecution
Count 3.) Guilty
Count 4.) Guilty
Count 5.) Guilty

DefendantBrock Allen Turner


Turner was sentenced on June 2, 2016, to six months incarceration in the Santa Clara County jail to be followed by three years of formal probation. Additionally, Turner must register as a sex offender for the rest of his life and participate in a sex offender rehabilitation program.

Court membership

Judge(s) sittingAaron Persky


People v. Turner, formally People of the State of California v. Brock Allen Turner (2015), was a criminal case filed in Santa Clara County Superior Court which convicted Brock Allen Turner of three counts of felony sexual assault. Turner was a student athlete at Stanford University on January 18, 2015, when he sexually penetrated an intoxicated and unconscious 22-year-old[1] woman (later called "Emily Doe"[2]) with his fingers.[3][4]

Turner was caught by two Stanford international students from Sweden, who testified that they intervened because the woman appeared to be unconscious. Turner fled the scene as they approached, resulting in the two apprehending and restraining him until police arrived to take him in custody.[4][5] The police arrested Turner on Stanford's campus, and booked him into the Santa Clara County jail on suspicion of attempted rape and penetration with a foreign object.[6][7] He was released the same day after posting $150,000 bail.[8]

Turner was indicted on January 28, 2015, on five charges: two for rape, two for felony sexual assault, and one for attempted rape.[8] He was arraigned on February 2, 2015, pleading not guilty on all five charges.[9] On October 7, 2015, after reviewing the results of DNA tests, the two rape charges were dropped by prosecutors.[4][8] The trial began on March 14, 2016,[10] and concluded on March 30, 2016, with Turner being convicted of the three remaining charges of felony sexual assault.[11][12] The convictions carried a potential sentence of 14 years in prison. Prosecutors recommended six years in prison while probation officials recommended a "moderate" county jail sentence.[13] On June 2, 2016, Santa Clara County Superior Court Judge Aaron Persky sentenced Turner to six months confinement in the Santa Clara County jail to be followed by three years of probation. Additionally, Turner was informed of his life-long obligation to be lawfully registered as a sex offender[14] and furthermore, ordered to complete a state approved rehabilitation program for sex offenders.[12]

Immediately after Turner's conviction, widespread public criticism emerged, accusing Persky of judicial bias in favor of male and class privilege,[15] leading to campaigns for his recall or resignation. The Santa Clara County Bar Association and public defenders defended Persky, saying that the sentence was based upon the probation report as well as being consistent with similar cases, and stated that his removal would be a "threat to judicial independence".[16][17]

The victim impact statement to the court was also widely disseminated by international media outlets, fueling a resurgence of the wider debate regarding the prevalence of campus sexual assault overall. Her statement described her suffering in vivid detail, dissecting and criticizing Turner's actions both during and after the assault, and criticizing the probation department's recommendation of a short sentence for Turner. According to Vice News, the case had become "the latest, controversial episode in an ongoing debate sweeping the U.S. about rape cultureprivilege in the criminal justice system, and campus safety".[18]

On November 1, 2016, Glamour named "Emily Doe" a woman of the year for "changing the conversation about sexual assault forever", citing that her statement has been read over 11 million times.[19] The case influenced the California legislature to toughen sexual assault laws by requiring prison terms for rapists whose victims were unconscious and including digital penetration in the penal code's definition of rape.[20][21]

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