Brock Turner—the former Stanford University student who served a six-month jail sentence following his conviction for three felony counts of sexual assault—is appealing his conviction and asking for a new trial. Turner was released from jail in September 2016 after serving only half of his sentence; in seeking a new trial, he risks being re-sentenced with up to 14 years in prison.
On Friday, Turner’s legal team filed a 172-page brief arguing due process violations during the trial amounted to prosecutorial misconduct, citing Judge Aaron Persky’s choice to exclude testimony character witnesses in the case as well as his failure to instruct the jury to consider lesser charges prior to their deliberations. Following his initial conviction, prosecutors had requested Turner, then 20, be sentenced to six years imprisonment; Persky instead offered what legal experts have called an “unusually light” sentence. Activists in Santa Clara County, led by Stanford Law Professor Michele Dauber, are approaching the final stages of collecting the 90,000 signatures needed to put Persky’s name on the ballot for a recall.
Turner, who was convicted of sexually assaulting an unconscious woman near a fraternity house, is also arguing that the assault happened near, rather than behind, a dumpster—a detail Deputy District Attorney Alalek Kianerci told jurors multiple times during the trial. According to the brief, which called the Turner trial “a detailed and lengthy set of lies,” saying the assault happened behind rather than near the dumpster implied that Turner was attempting to hide his actions. According to Turner’s legal team, he was never interested in hiding such behavior, and neither are they: “What we are saying that what happened is not a crime,” a legal adviser for Turner, John Tompkins, told reporters. “It happened, but it was not anywhere close to a crime.”
Along with his jail sentence, Turner is required to register as a sex offender for life for the felony offenses he committed, in accordance with California law.
Turner’s request for a new trial comes in the midst of a rapid cultural shift around sexual assault and harassment that began following the revelations of decades worth of misconduct by Harvey Weinstein. It also comes after a viral and anonymous letter from the woman he raped, which served as a rallying cry to survivors who mobilized in the wake of his lenient sentencing. “At the bottom of the article, after I learned about the graphic details of my own sexual assault, the article listed his swimming times,” the survivor wrote in her letter. “She was found breathing, unresponsive with her underwear six inches away from her bare stomach curled in fetal position. By the way, he’s really good at swimming.”
Santa Clara County District Attorney Jeff Rosen expressed confidence to the Mercury News that Turner’s efforts would not be successful. “His conviction will be upheld,” Rosen told the paper. “Nothing can ever roll back Emily Doe’s legacy of raising the world’s awareness about sexual assault.”
Among other factors Persky took into consideration—including the “severe impact” facing jail time would have on Turner— included the athlete’s purported expression of remorse. “Whether the defendant is remorseful…that’s maybe one of the most conflicted and difficult issues in this case,” Persky told the court during Turner’s June 2016 sentencing. “Because Mr. Turner came before us today and said he was genuinely sorry for all the pain that he has caused… And I think that is a genuine feeling of remorse.” But Turner’s decision to subject his victim and her family to a new trial casts any such perceptions in an even harsher light.
“[Jane Doe] has stated that he hasn’t really taken responsibility for his conduct,” Persky had said that summer. “And I think at one point she basically wrote or said that ‘He – he just doesn’t get it.'” Over one year after the fact, it’s becoming even more clear that he doesn’t.