Americans have become seemingly used to the preponderance of the lack of justice in our nation.
Look back to the trials of O.J. Simpson or Casey Anthony — or the number of civil rights-related cases in recent years — and it feels like our sense of justice is waning more than ever.
But then a Santa Clara (Calif.) County Superior Court judge handed down a sentence this week that has us shaking our heads more than we can ever recall.
The case against Stanford University student Brock Turner seemed to be airtight. Two witnesses stumbled across him sexually assaulting a young woman behind a frat house dumpster and tackled him as he tried to run away. The rape tests conducted on his victim, whose blood alcohol content was nearly three times the legal limit, proved the assault. She was found unconscious, pants-less from the assault with her bra removed.
What more could a jury possibly want in finding a conviction for such a horrendous case? This was about as far away from the “he said, she said” dilemmas that plague many of our country’s college campuses as possible.
And a jury agreed, finding the 20-year-old college freshman guilty on all three felonies that he stood accused. For those who advocate on behalf of sexual assault victims, it seemed that the Turner case was destined to be a shining example of justice in a difficult topic growing worse by the year.
But then Santa Clara County Superior Court Judge Aaron Persky imposed his sentence: six months of incarceration in the county jail followed by three years of probation and a lifetime registration on the sex offender list. With good behavior, Turner will be released after three months behind bars.
It was an outrageous abdication of justice in America.
The maximum penalty that Persky could have issued under the charges was 14 years in prison, and the county’s prosecutor was seeking six years of active incarceration along with other factors given Turner’s otherwise clean record.
But Persky concluded that a lengthy prison sentence would “have a severe impact” on Turner, and decided to be far more lenient. Critics have begun a petition against the judge, saying his sentence smacks of “privilege” and favoritism, as Persky too was a Stanford student athlete and even helped coach the university’s lacrosse team after graduating.
Meanwhile, Dan Turner has also been lambasted in social media and by the press after he submitted a letter to the court requesting leniency for his son. Dan Turner’s letter praised his son’s academic and athletic gifts and blamed the crimes for which his son was found guilty as “20 minutes of action out of his 20 plus years of life.” He laments the effect that incarceration and a sex offender status will have on his son, but never addresses the unspeakable pain — physical, mental and emotional — that his son imposed upon his victim.
To this day, Turner has not admitted guilt in the incident and claims that the sexual activity was mutual despite all facts dispelling such nonsense. He, and his father, blame the whole crime upon “the dangers of alcohol consumption and sexual promiscuity.”
Except the only danger in this situation was Brock Tuner’s decision to prey upon a vulnerable woman. Drinking alcohol did not get his victim sexually assaulted and she did not give consent, negating any claim to promiscuity.
The public is right to be upset with Brock Tuner and Judge Persky, but we are perhaps most angry with Dan Turner. As a father, your most important role is helping to shape the character of your children. Belittling his son’s crime as “20 minutes of action” and aiding efforts to try to discredit his son’s victim only goes to show that Dan Turner is not the type of man that any should strive to be.
Citizens rarely have a chance to shape the judicial branch, but we do have the opportunity to shape our children. Teaching our sons to respect women and their rights to their bodies is as essential as teaching them how to read and write.
Unfortunately, true change in our battle against sexual violence will start at home rather than in our courtrooms.