Judge Aaron Persky has clearly found himself one of the less popular people in the nation ever since handing down a slap on the wrist to Brock Turner for raping the unconscious body of a woman behind a dumpster. First we learned that a recall petition had begun making the rounds, seeking to remove him from his job. And now things in his own office have become uncomfortable as he’s been removed from duty in an upcoming trial on a different sexual assault case. (Washington Post)
The judge in a Stanford sexual assault case that has ignited national debate about how such crimes are viewed and sentenced has been removed from a pending sexual assault case, according to the Santa Clara County District Attorney’s office.
Prosecutors made the unusual move of asking for another judge after being surprised by a decision Monday…
“After this and the recent turn of events, we lack confidence that Judge Persky can fairly participate in this upcoming hearing in which a male nurse sexually assaulted an anesthetized female patient.
“This is a rare and carefully considered step for our Office. In the future, we will evaluate each case on its own merits and decide if we should use our legal right to ask for another judge in order to protect public safety and pursue justice.”
It’s hard to tell if this is just a brief, bad streak in an otherwise unremarkable judicial career or if the Stanford case is shining a spotlight on a long term problem which never attracted any attention. The blundered Brock Turner sentencing could, I suppose, be written off as a moment of bad judgment (pun intended) and this second case being disputed isn’t exactly crystal clear from the details being provided. It’s being described as a fairly typical misdemeanor stolen property case in which a woman was charged after being found with two opened pieces of mail in her purse containing promotional checks from credit card companies. The mail was not addressed to her and the intended recipients both stated they didn’t know her and didn’t give her the envelopes. When the defense made a routine (though almost always denied) motion to dismiss, the judge tossed the case.
That sounds bad on the surface, but perhaps he had access to other information we’re not privy to which would have made a successful prosecution unlikely. Still, if that were the situation, wouldn’t the prosecutor have been shown that evidence and considered pulling the case themselves? It certainly does sound odd.
In any event, the next one on the docket involved a woman who was allegedly sexually assaulted by a male nurse while she was unconscious. One can understand how her attorney would be loathe to have Persky handling the trial after these recent events so it’s not terribly shocking that he was yanked. At this point, even if the recall effort fails, Persky is in a lot of trouble. Once you begin having cases taken away from you in your own department, not for a potential conflict of interest, but because you can’t be trusted to render a fair and proper resolution your days on the bench are likely numbered. And you can bet the press will be following his every move in the weeks and months to come.