SANTA CLARA (KPIX 5) — The backlash over why a judge sentenced a Stanford student to only six months in jail for a sexual assault is growing.
Transcripts from the sentencing reveal the now infamous Judge Aaron Persky handed down the short sentence because he found defendant Brock Turner’s remorse to be genuine.
Now, not only are jurors refusing to serve in the Santa Clara County judge’s courtroom, the District Attorney’s office is refusing to work with him.
“What has happened here is not unprecedented, but very unusual,” said KPIX 5’s legal analyst retired Judge LaDoris Cordell.
The DA’s office used their judicial challenge in a case involving a male nurse accused of sexually assaulting a woman while she was sedated for a medical procedure. The DA’s challenge happened before the case even got to a courtroom.
“The prosecutor in the courtroom can’t do it on his or her own, it has to come from the top — in other words, the decision gets made by the district attorney that the office is saying, ‘judge, we don’t want you to preside over this case’,” said Cordell. “This is not one lone person, this is a decision that comes from on high.”
Sources also tell KPIX 5 that the district attorney put his deputies on notice to report it if Judge Persky is assigned to one of their cases.
It could lead to more challenges against the judge, a practice known as “papering.”
“It’s not something a judge wants, because it really renders a judge useless when it comes to dealing with certain kinds of cases,” said Cordell.
In the transcript from the sentencing hearing of Turner, the former Stanford swimming star, Judge Persky said Turner’s guilt carried less “moral culpability” because he was drunk.” The judge continued, “I take him at his word that, subjectively, that’s his version of events. The jury, obviously found it to be not the sequence of events.”
KPIX 5’s legal analyst says the DA most likely made a decision to have Persky pulled from this latest sexual assault case because of the Stanford case.
“If there were a conviction, they don’t believe — that office does not believe he would be fair in the sentencing based on what happened in the Turner case,” said Cordell.
In a statement, the DA’s office said:
“This is a rare and carefully considered step for our office. In the future, we will elevate each case on its own merits and decide if we should use our legal right to ask for another judge in order to protect public safety and pursue justice.”
Cordell said cases are assigned to judges based on courtroom availability, so more sexual assault cases could land in front of Judge Persky.
“There is no kind of shopping around,” said Cordell.
The next move could come from Persky’s bosses.
“It goes to the supervising judge or the presiding judge to make some decisions,” explained Cordell. “Do we put the judge into another assignment or do we try to ride this out.”