Violence Against Women

Judge Who Gave Light Rape Sentence Recalled

Aaron Persky, the judge who sparked national outrage after granting a light jail sentence to Stanford rapist Brock Turner, was recalled by California voters in their June 5 primary. It is very rare for a judge to be recalled: since 1911 when recalls were first legalized, only four attempts have been successful; the last was in 1932.

Persky will be replaced by Cindy Hendrickson, an Assistant District Attorney, who will serve for the remainder of Persky’s term, which concludes in 2022. Hendrickson, who has had a 25 year legal career, has promised to protect women and survivors of sexual violence.

The campaign to recall Persky was started by Michele Dauber, a Stanford law professor and sociologist who also led the charge to revise Stanford’s sexual assault policy. To get the recall on the ballot, Dauber had to earn nearly 90,000 petition signatures, 20% of the number of people who voted in Persky’s last election. Dauber’s campaign raised over $1 million dollars, received the required number of signatures, and was endorsed by a plethora of elected officials, publications, professors, and organizations, including the Feminist Majority Foundation.

National outrage erupted in 2016 after Persky granted a light sentence to rapist Brock Turner. Despite a jury finding him guilty of assault with intent to commit rape, penetration of an intoxicated person, and penetration of an unconscious person, Persky opted to disregard prosecutors’ recommended six-year prison sentence. Instead, Persky handed down a mere six months in county jail and three years of probation. Turner served only 3 months of his sentence.

The California Assembly responded by unanimously passing a bill that would establish a mandatory minimum sentence of three years in prison for anyone convicted of raping an unconscious person. Previously, California state law required a three year sentence for anyone convicted of raping a conscious person, leaving a legal loophole that failed to protect vulnerable potential victims.

But critics, such as the ACLU of California, have cautioned against the use of mandatory minimums, citing “negative impacts on communities of color and other unintended consequences.”


Media Resources: The New York Times 06/11/2018, Mercury News 02/06/2018, SF Chronicle 06/05/2018, CROWDPAC,  Ballotpedia, California Secretary of State, Palo Alto Online 06/02/2016, CBC 06/08/2016

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