Assault Case Sparks Outcry

IN THE NEWS: Members of the media descended on the Farm during commencement to get students' reactions to the Brock Turner sexual assault case. Photo: David Gonzales, '93

A former Stanford student and varsity swimmer, Brock Turner, who was convicted in March of three felony sexual assault charges, became the focus of national outrage after he was sentenced in June to six months in jail and three years’ probation, which critics denounced as too lenient.

Turner, 20, was found guilty of the intent to commit rape of an intoxicated/unconscious person, penetration of an intoxicated person and penetration of an unconscious person after he assaulted a 23-year-old woman who was attending a party on campus on January 17, 2015. Two Stanford graduate students passing by the scene outside the Kappa Alpha fraternity house confronted Turner when they noticed that the woman lying underneath him was unconscious. When Turner attempted to flee, they restrained and held him until authorities arrived. 

Prosecutors had requested a six-year prison term for Turner. Santa Clara County Superior Court judge Aaron Persky, ’84, MA ’85, citing Turner’s age and clean criminal record, said Turner posed no threat going forward and that a lengthy sentence would be too harsh. A recall effort aimed at Persky ensued; however, legal officials defended Persky as a fair and respected judge. “While I strongly disagree with the sentence that Judge Persky issued in the Brock Turner case, I do not believe he should be removed from his judgeship,” Santa Clara County district attorney Jeff Rosen said.

Following Turner’s sentencing, a letter written to the court by the victim describing her emotional and psychological trauma sparked widespread anger and demands for justice. Those demands intensified when a letter to the court written by Turner’s father, Dan, was publicized. In the letter, he said his son already had paid “a steep price” for “20 minutes of action out of his 20-plus years of life.”

Stanford released a statement noting that it had done “everything within its power to assure that justice was served in this case,” including imposing the harshest sanction available to it—banning Turner from ever setting foot on campus again. “Once Stanford learned the identity of the young woman involved, the university reached out confidentially to offer her support and to tell her the steps we were taking,” the statement said.

It added: “There is still much work to be done, not just here, but everywhere, to create a culture that does not tolerate sexual violence in any form and a judicial system that deals appropriately with sexual assault cases.”