Politicians weigh in on Brock Turner backlash; more letters written

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The backlash against a sitting Santa Clara County Superior Court judge has reached a fever pitch.

Last week Judge Aaron Persky sentenced a former Stanford swimmer to six months in jail for sexually assaulting an unconscious woman. Critics call that sentence “dangerous” and seek his ouster. Others in judicial circles say Persky was a fair and even-tempered jurist.

Days after sentencing Brock Turner to six-months in jail, the judge has become the focal point for judicial reform.

People and political leaders from all over the country question Persky's handling of the case.

Senator Claire McCaskill of Missouri said six-months in jail "...would be an inappropriate sentence.”

Her Democrat colleague, Kirsten Gillibrand of New York said the short stay in county jail "sends the wrong message."

California Attorney General Kamala Harris said she has a "concern...in this case, that the victim was not heard, not respected and she was not given dignity in the process."

The feeling that the 23-year-old victim was overlooked when justice was handed down sparked an online petition by Change.org.

At least 400,000 digital signatures are on the site seeking Persky's removal from the bench.

Santa Clara County Registrar of Voters Shannon Bushey says efforts such as the online petitions do not impact Judge Persky's standing.

There are, however, two clear-cut ways to have him removed from the bench. One is by recall and the other, a write-in candidate on the November ballot.

"The recall process takes many, many months to do," says Bushey adding, "The write-in process also has specific steps that they must follow."

To recall the judge, proponents would need to gather 58,634 signatures—roughly 20-percent of the registered voters from 2014.

Those signatures would need to be certified by Bushey's office before being turned over to the board of supervisors.

Then a special election would be held next year to replace Judge Persky.

A write-in candidate would need 600-signatures by August 17th, and then that name would have to get more votes than Persky's this November.

Stanford Law Professor Michele Dauber spearheads the recall effort and says "There is a group; women fund-raisers, political operatives, political consultants and now elected officials who all feel that Judge Persky's sentence in the Brock Turner case was both wrong and dangerous."

Public opinion in San Jose on Wednesday seems to be running against the judge.

One woman told KTVU, she agreed with the efforts to recall the judge because she didn’t think his sentence was fair, considering what Turner did.

A corporate lawyer out during his lunch break said it’s a difficult case and he sees both sides, but that the judge is probably now thinking twice about his decision.

Legal analysts say Turner’s sentence is pretty much a done deal.  It can be modified, but usually that modification is to shorten the sentence, not make it longer.

Meanwhile, more letters are being written in the aftermath of Turner’s conviction.

One of the letters written to the judge was from Brock Turner’s high school guidance counselor. In her letter, she wrote Turner was “absolutely undeserving of the outcome”.

Kelly Owens, the guidance counselor from Oakwood High School in Dayton, Ohio also wrote that Turner, “proved to be completely and absolutely trustworthy,” by her estimation.

She describes him as a “favorite among his peers” and that he was never “boastful or arrogant”.  She concludes that his conviction left her heartbroken. 

After Owens‘ letter was submitted, the Oakwood City School District said they were not aware she had submitted the letter and said her views do not reflect that of the school district's nor their board of education. 

Owens did submit a letter of apology to the district saying she made a mistake in writing the letter to the judge on Turner's character and that he should be held accountable. 

In her apology letter Owens states, "I pray for the victim, her family and all those affected by this horrible event. I am truly sorry for the additional pain my statement has caused. I tell my students they have to be held accountable, and Brock is no exception."