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Would recall of judge in Stanford sex assault case threaten the rule of law?

Judge in Stanford assault case faces recall
Judge in Stanford assault case faces recall 02:52

PALO ALTO, Calif. -- The California judge who caused outrage with a short sentence for a convicted sex offender plans to speak to reporters today. Judge Aaron Persky faces a recall vote on June 5, after former Stanford University swimmer Brock Turner spent just three months in jail for three felony convictions. Voters will head to the polls to decide if Persky will remain on the bench.

This June 27, 2011, photo shows Santa Clara County Superior Court Judge Aaron Persky Jason Doiy/The Recorder via AP

Today Persky is making his first on-camera comments since handing down that controversial sentence – his latest attempt to convince an already-skeptical public, reports CBS News correspondent John Blackstone. He has just four weeks left to avoid becoming the first California judge in 86 years kicked off the bench by voters.

He became a recall target after he sentenced Turner to six months in the county jail for sexually assaulting an unconscious woman.

Last month, the judge acknowledged the outrage unleashed by that 2016 sentence. "The passion is authentic, the end is justified," he told the Mercury News, but objected to the way critics portrayed him. "So you have to ask yourself, am I really the face of rape culture?"

"There is absolutely no evidence that he has engaged in misconduct," law professor Margaret Russell said. She is one of 95 legal scholars who issued a statement saying: "The mechanism of recall was designed for and must be limited to cases where judges are corrupt or incompetent or exhibit bias... None of these criteria applies to Judge Persky." 

Russell also leads a group supporting Persky. We spoke to her last August.

"Recalling him would really be a violation of what we want in California which is independence of the judiciary," Russell said.

"Threatens the rule of law," Blackstone said.

"It threatens the rule of law," she responded.

Stanford law professor Michele Dauber, who spearheads the recall effort, disagrees.

"This is a democracy, and the judges in California under our constitution are accountable to the voters they serve," Dauber said.

Dauber cites three other cases where the judge issued favorable rulings to college athletes accused of sex crimes and violence against women.

"Judge Persky has shown over and over again that he has poor judgment...and we believe they will vote him out on June 5th," Dauber said.

A majority of people in Santa Clara County seem to agree with Dauber. In March, a poll by CBS San Francisco station KPIX found that 56 percent of voters want Persky recalled. Just 29 percent said they wanted him to stay on the bench.

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