PALO ALTO (CBS SF) — A retired California judge says Stanford University sex assailant Brock Turner’s light jail sentence may have been the result of “white privilege” and “unconscious bias” by the presiding judge.
LaDoris Cordell went to Stanford Law School and has even worked in Stanford’s administration. As dean of the law school she led an effort to increase diversity on campus and she went back years later as the university’s vice provost for campus relations and as special counsel to the university’s president.
She’s a retired judge. In fact, Cordell was the first African American female judge in the Superior Court in Northern California and she’s taught classes to judges about identifying unconscious bias.
She was also formerly independent police auditor for the city of San Jose and is now a KPIX 5 legal analyst.
When Santa Clara County Judge Aaron Persky sentenced Turner he said, “the media attention has not only impacted the victim…but also Turner.”
Persky said, “…the evidence of his character up until the night of this incident…has been positive.”
But Cordell told CBS This Morning that Brock Allen Turner’s six-month jail sentence was the result of white privilege and questioned whether Turner would have received as light a sentence if he wasn’t white and hadn’t been attending a prestigious university.
“When he said that, alright, these are the mitigating factors, these were basically code for white privilege. What about the person that isn’t enrolled in a prestigious school, that doesn’t have a stellar future looking ahead? Would the sentence be the same on the facts as they were in this case?” she wondered.
Cordell told CBS San Francisco, “the bias that I found could have been an unconscious bias.”
She said she knows Persky and doesn’t think it was a conscious bias, but as a judge she saw the same pattern: “People of color going off to prison … I believe it’s a product of this unconscious bias. But if you’re a judge, you can’t have it.”
The solution, Cordell said, is to become aware of those biases.
“Be very thoughtful about it … When you’re not sure, flip the demographic and it gets you thinking … If you have those biases and you’re a judge, that’s very dangerous,” Cordell said.
People around the country are now calling for a recall of Judge Persky, but only Santa Clara County registered voters can authorize a recall.
Michele Dauber, a Stanford University law and sociology professor, is leading the movement to recall the Santa Clara County judge. The movement’s website, recallpersky.com, was paid for by Progressive Women Silicon Valley State PAC, according to the site.
Cordell said that other than a recall by the voters, there are two ways to remove a judge: impeachment by the state assembly then convicted by two-thirds of the state senate or by the California Commission on Judicial Performance after review by the California Supreme Court.
Only two judges have ever been impeached in California, Cordell notes, the first in 1862 and the second in 1929. The second judge, however, was acquitted of all charges and remained on the bench.
By Hannah Albarazi – Follow her on Twitter: @hannahalbarazi.