As Stanford sex assault convict gets out early, judge controversy goes on

The former Stanford University swimmer convicted of sexual assault is scheduled to be released from the Santa Clara County Jail Friday. Brock Turner was sentenced in June to six months in prison, but will get out three months early. 

The case created a huge public outcry and calls for the judge’s removal, from critics who called the judge’s punishment too light, reports CBS News correspondent John Blackstone. 

Week after week, demonstrators outside California’s Judicial Commission have called for the removal of Brock Turner’s sentencing judge, Aaron Persky. UltraViolet, an organization dedicated to fighting sexism and expanding women’s rights, circulated an online petition and generated nearly a million clicks against the judge.

Under mounting pressure, Persky was reassigned last week to hear only civil cases. But Stanford Law Professor Michele Dauber doesn’t think that’s enough. 

“Oh no, we are going to continue on with the recall,” Dauber said. 

Dauber is spearheading the “Recall Judge Persky” campaign, backed by well-funded political action committees.

“This judge is just simply biased,” Dauber said. 

But Professor Dauber, too, has been attacked. Some 40 California law school professors took out a newspaper ad, saying: “Naked political pressure of this kind risks undermining the very foundation of dispassionate, independent judgment upon which all criminal convictions and sentences depend for their legitimacy.”

Hastings Law School Professor Hadar Aviram is among those who signed the letter. 

“It’s a dangerous proposition to push judges to be harsh to appease public opinion,” Aviram said. 

Even the prosecutor has expressed concern. In an email to Judge Persky obtained by CBS News, Deputy DA Alaleh Kiancerci wrote: “...Your honor... I am really sorry for any negativity or personal attacks you are enduring. It’s completely inappropriate.”

Turner’s lenient sentence for three counts of felony sexual assault burst into national attention with the release of a powerful letter from his still-anonymous victim.

In newly released court testimony, Turner​ was asked why he was smiling when he was caught, to which he answered, “I was laughing at the situation of how ridiculous it was.”

In response to the Turner case, California lawmakers Monday passed a bill requiring mandatory prison sentences for sexual assault of an unconscious victim, no longer allowing judges the discretion to impose probation only. The bill must be signed by Governor Jerry Brown before becoming law.