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Brock Turner case goes to jury

Attorneys argue over significance of defendant's belief that woman gave consent consciously

The jury's decision in the sexual-assault trial of former Stanford University freshman Brock Allen Turner could hinge on his state of mind in the roughly 30 minutes prior to being spotted gyrating on top of a highly intoxicated, unconscious woman on Jan. 18, 2015.

The Santa Clara County District Attorney's Office and defense attorney Michael Armstrong each presented views to challenge a certain premise: whether Turner believed that the woman was conscious of the sexual acts he is accused of perpetrating or if he knew or should have reasonably known that she was too intoxicated to give her consent.

If Turner believed she was conscious of the act -- whether or not she was -- then he did not have the mental state of committing the crime and the jury must find him not guilty, Santa Clara County Superior Court Judge Aaron Persky told the jurors while delivering jury instructions in the Palo Alto courthouse on Monday afternoon.

Turner faces three felony charges: sexual assault with intent to commit rape of an intoxicated/unconscious person; sexual penetration of an intoxicated person; and sexual penetration of an unconscious person.

The eight-man, four-woman jury will begin deliberations on Tuesday morning.

The 23-year-old woman, who is being named "Emily Doe" by the Palo Alto Weekly to protect her privacy, met Turner at a fraternity party she attended with her younger sister and friends. Doe and her group had consumed alcohol prior to attending the party at Kappa Alpha fraternity house, then continued to drink while there. Turner also testified that he had consumed several beers.

Turner claims that Doe left willingly with him and that she was conscious throughout their sexual encounter, which included kissing, fondling, digital penetration and "dry humping" her with his pants on. But two graduate students who came upon Turner and Doe said during court testimony that Doe, who was naked from the waist down, was unconscious.

Turner allegedly jumped off of the woman after one of the men, Peter Jonsson, yelled at him. As Jonsson chased Turner, the other man, Carl Arndt, checked on Doe, who remained unconscious but was breathing, according to testimony they gave in court.

Prosecutor Alaleh Kianerci told the jury during closing arguments that evidence shows that Turner was aware the woman could not give her consent, and that his actions are evidence beyond a reasonable doubt.

"It's what you do in the dark that puts you into the light," Kianerci said. "Brock Turner made a series of decisions in the darkness ... all in an effort to please himself. It didn't matter to him whether she was willing. What we do know is that he wouldn't have stopped if it wasn't for those two heroes."

Kianerci said that it is hard to look at a young man such as Brock Turner and not feel for the predicament he is in, but she asked the jury to look at the facts and not to base their verdict on an emotional response. He may not look like a typical rapist, coming from a good family and going to a good university and being a swimming star, she said.

"He is the typical, quintessential face of campus sexual assault," she said. "This is the typical campus sexual assault with a twist," because unlike so many others, there were witnesses, she added.

Kianerci compared Turner's behavior that night to that of Jonsson and Arndt: "Would he have helped her get up? Would he cover her vaginal area so she was not exposed? Would he call an ambulance or make sure she was breathing? ... He was on top of a lifeless Doe on the ground behind a Dumpster."

Kianerci showed photos again of Doe unconscious, with emergency responders trying to wake her up.

"These photos corroborate how she was totally unresponsive," she said. "If Peter and Carl can tell from yards away (that she was unconscious), couldn't the defendant know when he was on top of her? ... It doesn't pass the common-sense test."

Kianerci called a recording of an incoherent Doe on her boyfriend's phone "key evidence" of how intoxicated Doe was and how she was presenting to other people. Turner would have been aware of her state of intoxication and that she was incapable of giving conscious consent, she said.

But Turner's attorney, Michael Armstrong, said there was no evidence that would have led his client to believe that Doe was incapable of consenting, and therefore his state of mind would not have been consistent with committing a crime. The jury must find him not guilty, as per the court's instructions, he said.

During testimony, an expert witness for the defense, Kim Fromme, had said there was no way of telling if a person has blacked out from intoxication. Blacking out means the person may behave in a normal way and make rational decisions, but they won't have a memory of those decisions or acts. Doe has testified that she had no memory of the events or of any sexual acts with Turner.

Doe had testified that she had had more than a few blackouts from heavy drinking.

"She knows what it is to be in a blackout and that doesn't mean she wasn't aware and conscious," he said.

Armstrong said that testimony by Doe's own sister, Tiffany, refutes the prosecution's claims that Turner would have known Doe was too intoxicated. She had testified that Doe was OK when she left her to take their friend back to her room because the friend was too drunk.

"Her sister said she was fine, so she wasn't worried about leaving her there. Who knows her better than her sister?" he said.

Tiffany said that Doe was acting "silly and goofy."

"That's the last observation we have from anybody," Armstrong said. No one else saw the acts by the Dumpster or whether Doe was conscious at that point or had given her permission.

Arndt and Jonsson also did not see it, so they do not know if it occurred when Doe was still conscious or unconscious.

"The only testimony we have is Brock Turner. The only reasonable verdict we have is that he is not guilty."

But Kianerci said they saw Turner vigorously thrusting on top of the unresponsive Doe, and that was proof of sexual assault of an unconscious person.

Kianerci said that Turner running away was "pivotal."

"That running is huge -- that running is his act that tells you what he's thinking," she said.

Kiarnerci zeroed in on discrepancies in Turner's current and prior recollections of events. He initially told Detective Mike Kim that he did not think he ran. But later in court he said he ran because he thought that Arndt and Jonsson were going to hurt him and he did not know why. When prodded, he admitted he had lied to the detective, she said.

"The measure of a man's real character is what he would do if he knew he would never be found out," she said. "The defendant's actions show he knew she was too intoxicated (to give her consent willingly). It's not OK what he did to her. It's not OK the way he did it to her. It's not OK to violate another human being."

Kianerci also called Turner's whole testimony into question. He told a police detective six hours after the incident that he couldn't recall anything he and Doe had said to each other, but in court 14 months later he was very specific and clearly outlined their entire conversation, she said.

"He's able to write the script because she has no memory. But just because he wrote the script doesn't mean that ... knowledgeable jurors have to believe it," she said.

Considering that Doe had left a message telling her boyfriend how special he was to her, it also did not ring true that she would at the same time go off with Turner, Kianerci said.

"Mr. Turner was not Brad Pitt for her to risk everything to go with him in that state, in that location," she said.

Four people testified to Turner's high moral character, which should raise a reasonable doubt that he deliberately committed these crimes, Armstrong said.

Kianerci said, as she did throughout the trial, that none of the character witnesses ever saw Turner drunk.

"They know him from a different frame of life," she said.

Armstrong countered in his closing argument: "Reasonable doubt is a proof that leaves you with an abiding conviction that the evidence is true."

If Turner believed that Doe had given her consent to the sexual encounter and that she was conscious of giving consent, he can not be guilty, Armstrong said.

"If lawful under the facts as he believed them to be, he did not guilty. He did not have the mental state required for this crime," he said.

"I ask you to take the burden off his shoulders that has been there for 14 months."

Kianerci addressed that request in her rebuttal: What about the burden on the victim? she asked.

"What about the facts that Mr. Turner took advantage of this girl? The burden he has in this case is his guilt. ... What you did on that night is not acceptable. Hold him accountable," she said.

Read the Palo Alto Weekly's coverage of the Brock Turner trial and other sexual-assault cases at Stanford here.

Comments

8 people like this
Posted by Wilbur Wallace
a resident of another community
on Mar 29, 2016 at 8:00 am

No one wins here.


2 people like this
Posted by KickingUnderWater
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Mar 29, 2016 at 8:03 am

This is a most difficult case for the jury. Good possibility for them to get hung; and then a retrial? That would be even more brutal on the families involved.


5 people like this
Posted by Palo Altan
a resident of Palo Alto High School
on Mar 29, 2016 at 10:09 am

[Post removed.]


36 people like this
Posted by sad
a resident of Community Center
on Mar 29, 2016 at 10:19 am

IMO Turner is undoubtedly guilty but may still go free due to reasonable doubt. Since Doe was unconscious, she can't testify as to what happened, so it becomes a he says, she can't say sort of situation. However, unlike Turner, the brave grad student witnesses have no reason to lie and should be believed.


18 people like this
Posted by Ellis
a resident of another community
on Mar 29, 2016 at 10:28 am

"sad": I totally agree with you. If found not guilty, the pain and humility he has experienced these past 14 months, not to mention having his dreams in life shattered, is a horrible punishment in itself. Prison is not the answer for these cases. This experience will be life changing for him, and hopefully some character strengthening will come out of it. I doubt he'll ever drink in excess again. Yes, this is all very, very sad and there are no winners.


4 people like this
Posted by observer
a resident of College Terrace
on Mar 29, 2016 at 10:39 am

[Post removed.]


Sorry, but further commenting on this topic has been closed.

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