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There has been a great deal of attention given to the conviction of Brock Turner, 20, for the January 2015 assault with intent to commit rape he committed at a Stanford University fraternity party. Brock Turner seized upon unconsciousness and lack of capacity to sexually assault a young woman. The sexual assault was witnessed by passersby and the victim’s words heard at trial. Turner’s barbaric and sociopathic acts changed her life forever. What kind of person commits this type of act against a wholly defenseless person?
Yet, shockingly, Judge Aaron Persky gave Turner a six-month jail sentence. Turner will likely actually serve three months in jail. Prosecuters were recommending a six-year jail sentence. In support of his incredibly light sentence, Judge Persky stated, “A prison sentence would have a severe impact on him… I think he will not be a danger to others.” There can be no other conclusion that the judge was concerned about this young man’s safety and future. But why such concern for Brock Turner?
At the time he committed his crime, Brock Turner was a Stanford University swimmer who was from a well-to-do town in Ohio. He was from a supportive family. He is also white. What could Judge Persky possibly have been considering when he stated that a prison sentence would have a severe impact on him? What about the impact of a light sentence for Turner would have on his victim? What was given greater weight?
A study of the totality of the circumstances surrounding this horrible incident, leads to one conclusion: Brock Turner, a white male Stanford University student athlete from a well-to-do family is the beneficiary of historic privilege and a shockingly unfair justice system. Consider the same circumstances but, instead of being whom he is, Turner was a young African-American man. Or poor. Or a poor young African-American man. Or a minority male of any age. Would the judge, who happens to be white, have issued the same sentence, given the same consideration as he did Turner?
There are glaring flaws in our justice system. The conspicuous privilege given to Brock Turner, who was already the recipient of significant privilege by virtue of being born into his family and related socioeconomic factors, is unfair and unjust. He is a convicted felon who, like a predator, sexually assaulted an unconscious woman. If our system of justice was fair, Judge Persky would have at minimum heeded the prosecutor’s recommendation of a six year prison sentence. Judge Persky instead considered Turner’s likely bright future and concerns about his safety and well-being in prison, in other words his privilege. A deeper analysis of historic lack of justice and fairness based upon race and privilege need not be done here. Brock Turner’s sentence exemplifies it.
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