California Judge Aaron Persky is still feeling a fierce backlash for sentencing Brock Turner to six months in jail and three years of probation for sexually assaulting a young woman at Stanford University. Jurors are refusing to serve under him. Santa Clara County prosecutors have successfully pushed to have him removed from a separate sexual assault case. More than a million people, inspired by the victim’s harrowing public account of the rape, have signed a petition to put him up for a recall election, a rare move that isn’t even allowed in most states.
But the judge is finding support from a number of public defenders, who argue that punishing him will ultimately hurt their own clients — most of them, unlike Turner, poor people of color.
A group of more than 70 defense attorneys, including many who have practiced before Persky, have put out their own petition, arguing that if Persky is forced out for what they consider a “reasonable, fair sentence,” it will scare other judges into giving more severe sentences, a dynamic they say contributes to high rates of incarceration.
“When we as a community reprimand or condemn a judge for engaging in such a holistic analysis and for exercising discretion, such efforts can have a chilling effect on judicial courage and compassion,” the letter states. Punishing him, the defenders explain, will “deter other judges from extending mercy and instead encourage them to issue unfairly harsh sentences for fear of reprisal.” The Santa Clara County Bar Association has also released a statement saying that removing Persky would be a “threat to judicial independence.”
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