I’m sure that Judge Aaron Persky thought (and probably still thinks) that he delivered a sentence that was appropriate for Brock Turner.
And under some ethical philosophies that don’t believe in punishment for the sake of punishment he might have.
That’s where he went wrong.
It’s Not Just About This Defendant
In my opinion, he thought that crafting this sentence was a one-on-one balancing test between this defendant and the facts of this crime.
I don’t think it is.
A criminal sentence cannot be appropriate just for this defendant.
It must also be appropriate for
1) The victim
2) Future potential victims
3) Future potential rapists
4) The prosecutors who will have to plea-bargain future similar rapes
A good judge understands the pain, stress and loss that a rape victim has chosen to experience when she chooses to look to the Law for justice.
If, at the end of that very stressful process, the judge essentially tells the criminal “You made a mistake. Go and sin no more” he’s also telling the victim, “He’s not really a bad person. All the pain you went through to see this case to judgment was for nothing. I’m letting him go.”
As far as I know the Judge didn’t ask the victim what sentence she thought would be appropriate nor did he listen to what the prosecutor asked for on her behalf.
The Next Victim
A good judge understands the pain, stress and loss that the next rape victim will have to choose to go through if she chooses to look to the Law for justice.
When the judge tells a rapist: “You made a mistake. Go and sin no more” he‘s telling future rape victims, “Don’t bother reporting the crime. Don’t bother submitting to the pain and effort and stress of the judicial process. Just walk away now because even if you do everything right, and even if the defendant is convicted, I’m just going to let him off with a slap-on-the-wrist anyway.”
As far as I know the Judge didn’t ask any of the organizations that deal with rape victims what they thought was the shortest sentence he could give that nevertheless would still encourage other victims to come forward and testify against the men who raped them.
The Next Potential Rapist
A good judge understands that when other potential perpetrators are confronted with the opportunity to have sex with an unconscious woman some of them are likely to think: “First, she probably won’t report it. Second, I probably won’t be caught. Third, I probably won’t be convicted. And, fourth, if I do get convicted I was drunk so I’ll only do three months in County anyway.”
I don’t think Judge Persky considered how telling Brock Turner “You made a mistake. Go and sin no more” would affect the decisions other young men who might stumble across an unconscious girl who can’t defend herself might make.
The Next Prosecutor
A good judge understands that a major component of crafting a rape sentence is what affect that sentence will have on prosecutors of future similar rapes.
How many resources will the police and prosecutors commit to rape cases where the defendant will probably only get a slap on the wrist?
What power will future prosecutors have to negotiate a plea bargain if future similar rape defendants know that if they fight the case and lose they’ll only do three months in County anyway?
If the prosecutor and defense attorney both know that even if he’s convicted the defendant is possibly only going to do three months in the county jail what kind of a plea bargain will be made? Thirty days? Straight probation?
What Was Overlooked
So, while Judge Persky probably thinks that his sentence was appropriate for Brock Turner I have to wonder if he considered whether it was appropriate for any of the other parties in interest, or if he even understood that there were other parties in interest.
It seems possible to me that he mistakenly thought that he didn’t need to consider the effect of his sentence on anyone other than Brock Turner or that there even were other people whose interests he needed to consider beyond Brock Turner himself.
If he had, I think the sentence would have (and should have) been several years.