This is so powerful yet doesn’t slip into irrationality, which I know I often risk doing when I’m writing about something that makes me so furious.
One note: The victim/survivor (some people have a strong preference for one or the other, but it’s technically called a “victim impact statement”) did submit a statement to the probation officer whose job it was to recommend a sentence (and whose recommendation the judge ignored). And yes, the jury had done its job and gone home, but she read her letter in court, in the presence of the rapist, his family, her supporters, and the judge, before the judge issued his sentencing decision.
I have personally seen rape survivors give victim impact statements at a sentencing hearing after their attacker pleaded guilty (as we all know by now, it’s extremely rare that rapists are ever convicted, let alone sentenced to jail time). The judge in that case issued a harsher sentence than the defense had asked for, though it was within sentencing guidelines, and cited the victim impact statements as part of her rationale in that decision.
Procedures may vary from one jurisdiction to the next, and I’m no lawyer, but it seems quite common for victims or their loved ones to read or submit victim impact statements at sentencing hearings. Correct me if I’m wrong, but I don’t think they’re typically permitted to do so during the trial itself, or at least are discouraged from talking about the emotional impact — if they speak at trial, they’re on the witness stand, and the standard rules about what witnesses and lawyers can and can’t say during sworn testimony apply.
But victims, defendants and loved ones speaking at sentencing hearings with no jury are allowed (within reason) to say pretty much whatever they want, right? And judges are permitted (again, within reason, and in cases not subject to mandatory sentences) to take those statements into account when making sentencing decisions.
Judge Persky, it appears, wasn’t listening that day. And that doesn’t surprise me, because survivors of sexual assault get used to nobody listening to us even if we shout ourselves hoarse.