"Absolutely shocked and appalled" -- that's the reaction of a juror in the Brock Turner sexual-assault case to the sentence handed down by Judge Aaron Persky on June 2. The male juror, speaking publicly for the first time, delivered a cutting letter to Persky on Saturday stating, "This punishment does not fit the crime."
This juror in the case of the former Stanford University student-athlete, who was found guilty on March 30 of three felony sexual-assault charges, provided the letter to the Palo Alto Weekly. He has requested to remain anonymous to protect his privacy. The Weekly met with the juror on Sunday to confirm his identity as a juror on the case by inspecting his court-issued attendance certificate. He is the only one of the 12 jurors to make a public statement about the case.
"After the guilty verdict I expected that this case would serve as a very strong deterrent to on-campus assaults, but with the ridiculously lenient sentence that Brock Turner received, I am afraid that it makes a mockery of the whole trial and the ability of the justice system to protect victims of assault and rape," the juror wrote to Persky. "Clearly there are few to no consequences for a rapist even if they are caught in the act of assaulting a defenseless, unconscious person."
"It seems to me that you really did not accept the jury's findings. We were unanimous in our finding of the defendant's guilt and our verdicts were marginalized based on your own personal opinion," the letter said.
The juror told the Weekly in an interview that he was surprised by Persky's sentence six months in county jail (which could be reduced to three months under normal county practices) and three years' probation and considered it an affront to the jury.
"To be honest, I felt that the judge had just ignored much of what the jurors said," he told the Weekly.
Turner, now 20, was a freshman at Stanford and All-American swimmer on Jan. 18, 2015, when two graduate students found him on top of an unresponsive, partly dressed young woman lying behind a Dumpster outside a fraternity house on campus. Turner testified during the trial that the woman had verbally, willingly consented to the sexual activity, while witnesses -- the graduate students, law enforcement officers and emergency responders -- said that she was unresponsive.
Persky explained at the sentencing that his decision to impose a lighter sentence than the prosecution had asked for stemmed from positive character letters written on behalf of Turner from his family members and friends, Turner's lack of a prior record and the fact that he was intoxicated at the time of the assault.
The juror, however, said he did not find Turner credible because his story "seemed to change quite a bit."
Evidence that was not introduced during the trial but that was released by the county last week such as text messages and photos indicating repeated drug use, in contrast to Turner's claims that he was new to the college drinking culture when he arrived at Stanford further underscored Turner's lack of credibility, the juror said.
"I think it raises into question his testimony," he said.
One of the most compelling pieces of evidence presented during the trial, in this juror's eyes, was the fact that Turner ran away after two Stanford graduate students noticed him on top of an unmoving woman and asked loudly, "What the f are you doing?" Both of those students testified during the trial that they chased Turner, one tackling him to the ground and holding him until the police arrived.
Another was an incoherent voicemail the woman in the case, Emily Doe (whose name has been changed to protect her privacy), left her boyfriend just minutes before meeting Turner at the campus fraternity party. The prosecution played the voicemail in court to illustrate her state of intoxication at the time and to argue that Turner should have reasonably known she was not able to give consent. In it, Doe is almost entirely incomprehensible, her words slow and slurred.
"We looked at the whole weight of the evidence, but I think those (pieces of evidence) were particularly impactful," he said.
He also commented on the 12-page letter Doe wrote to Persky, which she read in part at the June 2 sentencing and which has since drawn international attention.
"I think it was very powerful. It exemplified the impact (the assault) had on her," he said.
Persky, who has served on the bench since former Gov. Gray Davis appointed him in 2003, is now facing a recall campaign and a national debate among legal experts on whether removal of a judge is an appropriate response.
The juror, who said he had recently become an American citizen after living in the country for more than 30 years, said he does not know enough about the recall process to say whether he supports it but noted he's seen in news reports that Persky is already facing backlash in the courtroom. Last week, during jury selection for a misdemeanor stolen property case, several prospective jurors refused to serve with Persky as the judge.
"This was my first experience as a juror, and frankly I am disappointed," the juror wrote Persky.
The juror declined to answer any questions about jury deliberations. (After a trial ends, jurors are free under California law to discuss the case and deliberations with anyone, including the media, if they choose to do so.)
Like others across the country, the juror worried that Persky's "lenient sentence" will not act as a deterrent for other perpetrators of sexual violence and "will make these victims less willing to report their attacks."
"The jury's verdict of guilt on all three felony counts of sexual assault was completely disregarded in an effort to spare the perpetrator a 'hardship,'" he wrote to Persky. "What message does this send to Emily Doe, and indeed all victims of sexual assault and rape, especially those on college campuses?"
Read his letter in full below.
To Judge Aaron Persky:
I was a juror in the Brock Turner trial. I have to be honest and say that I was not happy that I was selected for the jury given my work responsibilities, but once I was in the box, I took my civic responsibility very seriously.
Personally I have absolutely no doubt that Mr. Turner is guilty as charged and as convicted on all three counts. The predominantly male jury reached consensus of guilt on all three counts within two days of deliberation. In light of that quick and decisive finding, I was absolutely shocked and appalled when I heard on June 2 about the minimal sentence you announced that Mr. Turner would serve for this crime. After the guilty verdict I expected that this case would serve as a very strong deterrent to on-campus assaults but with the ridiculously lenient sentence that Brock Turner received, I am afraid that it makes a mockery of the whole trial and the ability of the justice system to protect victims of assault and rape. Clearly there are few to no consequences for a rapist even if they are caught in the act of assaulting a defenseless, unconscious person.
I recently became an American citizen after being in the country for over 30 years. This was my first experience as a juror and frankly I am disappointed.
Although I wasn't in the court for the sentencing, you were reported as having said:
"A prison sentence would have a severe impact on him ... I think he will not be a danger to others."
Isn't that the point ... a sentence should have a severe impact on Mr. Turner just as the event for which he has never expressed sorrow or regret has had on Ms. Doe. Also, given Mr. Turner's complete lack of credibility, I certainly would not assume that he will not be of danger to others. Witnesses describe his predatory behavior both the evening of the assault and on at least one other previous occasion, which is evidence of a pattern of dangerous behavior.
It was also reported that you acknowledged the difficulty of trying to balance the jury's guilty verdict with your belief in the events as Mr. Turner described them. A jury of 12 people found Mr. Turner guilty of three charges, but you, despite the information that came to light during the trial and the subsequent sentencing memos filed by both sides, chose to disregard the jury's findings and other evidence and believe the defendant's self-serving version of events. And you disregarded the findings that he had lied about prior alcohol and drug use in high school. You chose to find the defendant credible on the basis of irrelevant character witness testimony; I find that impossible to understand.
During the sentencing, you said, "The trial is a search for the truth. It's an imperfect process. But after the trial all sides should accept the jury's findings." It seems to me that you really did not accept the jury's findings. We were unanimous in our finding of the defendant's guilt and our verdicts were marginalized based on your own personal opinion.
You had to justify that there were "unusual circumstances" to give Mr. Turner less than the two year minimum sentence for his crime. But the unfortunate fact is, these circumstances are not unusual. Women like Ms. Doe suffer daily from similar crimes and I fear your sentence will make these victims less willing to report their attacks.
This punishment does not fit the crime. Mr. Turner, convicted of 3 felony counts of sexual assault, will serve 3 months in county jail since he is scheduled to be released on September 2. And Mr. Turner is going to appeal the verdict, which not only is a complete waste of tax payers' money but could mean, if he gets off, that he will not even have to register as a sex offender. How unjust would that outcome be, the slate wiped clean for a 3-count convicted sex offender?!
Justice has not been served in this case. The jury's verdict of guilt on all three felony counts of sexual assault was completely disregarded in an effort to spare the perpetrator a 'hardship'. What message does this send to Emily Doe, and indeed all victims of sexual assault and rape, especially those on college campuses? Your concern was for the impact on the assailant. I vehemently disagree, our concern should be for the victim.
Shame on you.
A Concerned Juror
The Palo Alto Weekly has created a Storify page to capture ongoing coverage of the Brock Turner case. To view it, go to storify.com/paloaltoweekly.