Survey of voters reveals support for recall of Brock Turner judge

Two-thirds of 776 respondents would vote to remove Judge Aaron Persky from bench

A new poll about the potential recall of Santa Clara County Judge Aaron Persky -- whose June 2 sentence of former Stanford University student-athlete Brock Turner for sexually assaulting an unconscious and intoxicated woman sparked an uproar across the globe and on social media over its brevity -- shows how some county residents would vote in an actual recall election.

Sixty-six percent of the 776 respondents said they would vote to recall Persky, according to the poll conducted June 20-22 by Sextant Strategies & Research, a Claremont-based consulting and research firm, for Capitol Weekly, a publication that covers California government and politics.

The 776 responses were collected from 226,420 registered voters in Santa Clara County who have provided their email addresses to the Registrar of Voters.

The results were "weighted to reflect the overall demographics of all voters, not just those for whom we have email addresses," pollster Jonathan Brown wrote in an email. There are some 788,063 voters registered in the county.

An official recall campaign launched by Stanford University Law professor Michele Dauber and backed by the Progressive Women Silicon Valley State PAC is currently raising funds and plans next spring to gather the signatures needed to mount a special election in Santa Clara County to put Persky's recall to voters. Brown noted in a Capitol Weekly column on the poll that such a "recall is not going to be won or lost based on the number of likes and retweets, speeches given, or how many times the victim's letter is re-read.

"It comes down to the narrow universe of actual voters in Santa Clara County participating in a future, likely low intensity, local election."

The poll found that Turner's sentence -- six months in county jail and three years of probation -- was "widely understood by voters and violated their sense of justice," Brown wrote in the Capitol Weekly column. (Editor's note: The poll actually misstated the sentence, telling voters that the length of probation was three months, not three years. Brown wrote in an email to the Weekly that while he regrets the "inadvertent human" error, he feels "quite comfortable that the length of the jail sentence is the driving factor in these results.")

Sixty-three percent of voters believe that the Turner sentence demonstrates that Persky cannot be fair in any case, rather than a "one-time lapse" on a high-profile case, Brown wrote.

Women, and especially younger women, expressed more than 4-to-1 support of the recall, Brown wrote.

Sixty-seven percent of respondents said the following aligns most closely with their opinion of the sentence: "This sentence is a sign that Judge Persky might have problems with ethics or an ability to be a fair judge in all cases."

Thirty-three percent, however, thought that the sentence represents a "single error of judgment ... a flaw in one stand-alone case."

The implications of race and privilege in this case have been raised by many. More than three-quarters (77 percent) of respondents in the poll agreed that if Turner had been African American or Latino, he would have received a tougher sentence.

After reading a pro-recall statement provided in the survey that calls Persky's sentencing decision an "insult to victims of sexual assault and women," respondents supported the recall in slightly greater numbers -- by an increase of 2 percent.

Support dropped to 59 percent, however, after respondents read an anti-recall message that argues "removing a judge of a single, high-profile case sets a very dangerous precedent that will cause judges to pay more attention to public opinion than following the law and their best judgment."

Voters 55 years and older — whom Brown wrote "tend to dominate low-turnout off-year elections, which is what this recall would be" — were split on their final recall vote: 51 percent of male respondents 55 years and older said they would support it as well as 55 percent of women in that age group.

Respondents were split evenly by gender (49 percent male and 51 percent female) and were primarily Caucasian. The age groups with the most participation were 18 to 24 years old (24 percent) and over 65 years old (23 percent).

The poll results are available here.


The Palo Alto Weekly has created Storify pages to capture ongoing coverage of the Brock Turner case as well as sexual-assault issues at Stanford University. To view them, go to

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8 people like this
Posted by Other News
a resident of Crescent Park
on Jun 27, 2016 at 2:38 pm

Survey of voters reveals support for sale of Buena Vista Mobile Home Park*

30 people like this
Posted by Mom
a resident of College Terrace
on Jun 27, 2016 at 3:18 pm

"More than three-quarters (77 percent) of respondents in the poll agreed that if Turner had been African American or Latino, he would have received a tougher sentence."

Seems like they are right. Persky is getting ready to sentence a Latino man to 3 years in prison for the same crime: Web Link

34 people like this
Posted by Unfit
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Jun 27, 2016 at 3:37 pm

It seems Judge Persky is not impartial. That makes him unfit to serve as a judge. Period.

There was recently an interview about a young black man who had been sentenced at age 16 to 25 years in prison for a sexual assault he did not commit. The interview was on CNN soon after the announcement of Brock Turners wrist slap.

The young black man was later found innocent by DNA evidence. Eyewitness evidence and the boy's alibi had been ignored, the DNA evidence "lost" for 15 years.

This young man, now 31, felt that if had spent 15 years in a maximum security prison for a crime he did not commit, Turner should at least spend 2-6 years in prison (not county jail) for a crime he DID commit. The black boy, at age 16, had no prior record as a juvenile. Turner DOES have a juvenile record--for drugs and alcohol!

10 people like this
Posted by Oliver Wendell Homes
a resident of another community
on Jun 27, 2016 at 6:26 pm

If the poll can't even state the underlying facts correctly, the result should be disregarded. People need to be aware that there is a huge difference between three months' and three years' probation (in our system there is basically no such thing as "three months' probation"), and one has no idea why Mr. Brown is "quite confident" that the length of the jail sentence was the driving factor. Perhaps he has some sort of crystal ball, in which case he could simply dispense with the poll. Ideally he should start over again using the correct facts. Sorry to sound cynical, but I have simply been around too long to sit around and watch public policy get set by this kind of thing.

5 people like this
Posted by Oliver Wendell Homes
a resident of another community
on Jun 27, 2016 at 10:26 pm

I feel I have to respond to the comments of "Mom" and "Unfit". First of all, no one should have to spend even five minutes in jail for a crime they did not commit. The fact that someone was unjustly imprisoned does not mean that a guilty person should get more jail time than was given to them. The comparison doesn't even make any sense.
Secondly, if people are so outraged at the judge and demand his recall, what about the probation officer who recommended county jail in lieu of prison? It is pretty much normal in most cases for judges to follow probation reports. Shouldn't the Probation Department be sacked for failing to anticipate popular outrage? I think there's a lack of moral consistency here among the outraged.
Finally, I think the citizens of Palo Alto and its environs should be asking themselves whether they really believe that if the same crimes of which Mr. Turner was convicted were committed against a woman of color in an impoverished, crime-ridden neighborhood (as opposed to the grounds of an Ivy League campus) would generate anywhere near the amount of outrage and media attention as the Turner case, and especially whether the penalty would be any worse. It would be very interesting to find out how often such cases are even prosecuted.

17 people like this
Posted by @holmes
a resident of Adobe-Meadow
on Jun 27, 2016 at 10:40 pm

Please check your assumptions. Why do you assume that Turner's victim was NOT a woman of color? I have been surprised by the people who have assumed that she is white. What if he is a white man who got away with assaulting a woman of color? All these Public Defenders and law students who argue that sentencing him will somehow through some highly attenuated chain of causation hurt minorities -- do victims have a race to you? Do you think that only male rape defendants have a race? Just checking.

If Brock Turner was, just for the sake of the argument, a white man who assaulted a nonwhite woman and got basically away with it, what would happen to all these people and their arguments? Would they admit there is an issue with this judge or continue to defend him?

What would you do then?

4 people like this
Posted by Dr. James S. Ferris
a resident of Midtown
on Jun 28, 2016 at 11:48 am

To: @holmes --

Actually, the argument is about Persky and his ruling, not about faulting the reasoning of others and what they might do if the skin colors of the defendant and victim were to be hypothetically one of your offered permutations. The Persky recall is not about race, or Public Defenders, or law students.
Your wording suggests your comments about "what others would do" and/or what would happen to their arguments"-- is off task. Your reasoning is sophistry and slight of hand--re-direction. You are not a soothsayer, even though you seem to be offering little more than rhetorical questions.
Is Persky fit to continue as a judge given his ACTUAL ruling -- based upon HIS assumptions -- is the question. Make a legal argument for or against recall based on this.
"Oliver Wendell HOMES" [sic]? Have the courage to use your given surname rather than use Oliver Wendell Holmes to posture by using a veiled suggestion you likely hope others will assume that you are either/or/both an attorney/judge.
All in all, sanctimony is not an argument.

12 people like this
Posted by Not Impartial
a resident of Midtown
on Jun 28, 2016 at 12:10 pm

Not Impartial is a registered user.

Persky has demonstrated more than once that he is not capable of judging impartially. He needs to go.

3 people like this
Posted by UseTheVoteProcess
a resident of Palo Verde
on Jun 28, 2016 at 1:02 pm

A recall is moot, because he will continue to serve until his current term expires, which I believe is in the fall (??). So the best plan is to just vote him out of his position at the next election.

11 people like this
Posted by Resident
a resident of East Palo Alto
on Jun 28, 2016 at 1:25 pm

This recall effort feels like a witch-hunt to me. I'm no legal expert, I know little about this judge's history, and I don't know the full content of the Turner trial. That said, many of those that I have heard calling for this judge's head have many misunderstandings about what actually happened in this case.

The information that I have heard from an unbiased source very close to this trial leads me to believe that the sentencing was appropriate. Turner's actions were NOT acceptable, and he SHOULD have been convicted. He will pay a steep price for these actions - he has lost his Stanford education and will be a convicted felon and registered sex offender for the rest of his life. There were mitigating factors, however, that the judge appropriately considered in the sentencing.

I have two daughters and would hate for either of them to have to go through something like this. Applying sanctimonious, ill-informed criteria to this case and calling for this judge's head is not the best way to protect them, however. I choose to protect them by telling that these things do happen in high school and college and that the prime objective of most boys in supplying drinks to girls at these parties is to get them to a state where they make bad decisions. We've also discussed how the bad decisions don't start when you're drunk, they start with that first or second drink that primes you to make bad decisions about subsequent drinks.

My son has also been part of these discussions, and we've made it very clear to him that we expect him to treat girls the way he (and we as parents) would want his sisters to be treated.

If anyone has any hard evidence that this judge should be recalled, or that this sentencing was inappropriate, please present it. Not that my opinion really matters, but I'm certainly open to it - I just haven't seen it yet. Injustices by other judges certainly doesn't qualify, however. Neither does the linked story about a similar Persky case - they are not the same.

10 people like this
Posted by Katherine
a resident of another community
on Jun 28, 2016 at 2:28 pm

Very, very happy to see this. I've been reading and keeping up with this story since it broke. I've read the court documents, arguments for and against Mr. Turner and literally hundreds of comments.

All of the arguments about Judicial Independence fail when it comes to Mr. Persky. He failed monumentally here and for those of you that do not understand that really need to wake up. He is a special case of unethical behavior and that is why there has been such an uproar. That the and the growing strength of the female community that is finally standing up for our rights and penalties for those who take them away (justice). He needs to go.

4 people like this
Posted by MOM2
a resident of Old Palo Alto
on Jun 28, 2016 at 7:25 pm

Talk about poor judgement. All right. Persky and the Probation Officer both need to go.

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

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