A letter released Wednesday by a group of retired Santa Clara County Superior Court judges speaks out against efforts to remove a current judge over his sentence for an ex-Stanford University swimmer convicted of sexual assault last month.
The letter addresses those seeking the removal of Superior Court Judge Aaron Persky for sentencing 20-year-old Brock Turner on June 2 to six months in county jail for three counts of sexual assault on an unconscious and intoxicated woman outside a fraternity party at the school in January 2015.
"We acknowledge and respect the deeply held views of those who disagree with Judge Persky's sentencing decision in the Turner case," the letter states. "At the same time, the full record in the case shows that Judge Persky made his decision after considering all the evidence presented at trial, the statements of the victim and the defendant, and a detailed report from an experienced probation officer," according to the letter.
Eighteen retired judges signed the letter, which states that the group isn't taking a side on whether or not the sentence was appropriate.
The letter goes on to say that "judicial independence" would be threatened if Persky were removed from his position.
Current judicial officers can't speak on the Turner case, but the limitation doesn't apply to retired judges, according to the letter.
Stanford law professor Michele Dauber, who is leading the national campaign to recall Persky, told the Weekly that the letters' stance on appropriate reasons for a judge's removal -- for illegal or unethical conduct, compared to making a lawful decision, the letter states -- is inconsistent with the California Constitution.
"Under the California Constitution, judges are elected, and they can be unelected by the people. Under the law, judicial bias is a perfectly sound basis for a judicial election," she wrote in an email.
"In our view, the grant of discretion to a judge depends on having individuals who will exercise that discretion fairly and without bias, particularly bias on the basis of characteristics such as sex or race."
Since the sentencing, the case has received worldwide attention and many groups, such as national women's rights group Ultraviolet, that have spoken out against the punishment, which they consider lenient.
The victim's 12-page statement written to Turner describing the assault's impact on her life has been widely shared on the internet.
Online campaigns have circulated calling for Persky to be removed from the bench and more than a million people have signed their names to petitions that were submitted last month to the state Commission on Judicial Performance.
The case has also led to proposed Assembly Bill 2888, passed last week by the state Senate Public Safety Committee, that would require a minimum three-year sentence in state prison for those convicted of rape on unconscious victims, which would change current law allowing judges to impose probation on such defendants.
Santa Clara County District Attorney Jeff Rosen, who supports the proposed bill, has said that he doesn't agree with Persky's decision, but doesn't believe the judge should be taken off the bench.
To read the Palo Alto Weekly's ongoing coverage of the Brock Turner case as well as sexual-assault issues at Stanford University, go to the Weekly's Storify page.