Saturday, June 18, 2016

Persky's privileged reasoning

Judge Aaron Persky, he of the six-months-jail-for-rape sentence, finally has had his say in the court of public opinion, thanks to the UK's Guardian, which provided a transcript of Persky's remarks at the sentencing hearing.

Color me unconvinced by Persky's reasoning.

He lists a number of considerations that he was legally bound to consider in deciding on a sentence, going through them one by one. What seems to have impressed him most were the numerous character-attestation letters submitted on defendant Brock Turner's behalf. From these, Persky seems to have decided that a lengthy prison stint — or even a moderately lengthy one of six years, which the prosecutor recommended — would be too severe a punishment.

I think you have to take the whole picture in terms of what impact imprisonment has on a specific individual’s life. And the impact statements that have been – or the, really, character letters that have been submitted do show a huge collateral consequence for Mr. Turner based on the conviction.
Persky can only be said to have taken a far more positive attitude toward Turner's character and prospects than the rest of us.

Persky's assessment of Turner's character is especially troubling. Persky thinks that Turner's intoxication mitigated the severity of the crime, noting that we'd think even less of Turner if he had raped an unconscious girl while he was sober. While true, the bottom line is that Turner raped an unconscious girl. Persky totally sidesteps that point. It's as if Persky thinks alcohol is a get-out-of-jail-free card in Monopoly.

Judge Persky, do all drunken young men try to rape unconscious women in your world?

As for Turner's prospects post-jail, nobody knows what they'll be, maybe not even Turner himself. But judging from his father's despicable indifference to his son's victim, I don't think Turner has been raised to understand social norms all that well. I think he has been raised in an atmosphere in which the concerns of others are not all that important. If you believe "in vino, veritas", that alcohol can be a useful truth serum of sorts, then Turner revealed a very unappetizing truth about himself. His willingness to rape an unconscious woman apparently was only held in check by sobriety, not by any sense of the grotesque immorality of such an act. His disinhibited crime does not paint a pretty picture of who he is or who he's likely to be later in life.

Having no prior criminal record and being armed with a wheelbarrow of character references made a big impression on Judge Persky. I would guess that Persky also viewed Turner as a sympathetic-looking and -sounding defendant, the boy next door.

Persky was so focused on the possible adverse consequences for the defendant that he forgot who the victim in this case really was. Shame on him.

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