A new voice has emerged in the debate to recall the Santa Clara judge who issued a lenient sentence to disgraced Stanford Swimmer Brock Turner.
Stanford professor Barbara Babock, who was the first female faculty member to join Stanford’s Law School, has waded into the nationwide debate over the recall of Santa Clara Federal Judge Aaron Persky. The judge gained national attention following the six-month county jail sentence he handed down to Turner, who had been convicted of sexually assaulting an unconscious woman near a dumpster outside a campus fraternity party.
A searing 12-page letter the victim wrote and read aloud in court went viral following the sentencing.
A highly-regarded legal expert, Babcock opposes recalling Persky – a perhaps surprising move that puts her views at odds with those of many of her colleagues, including prominant Stanford professor Michele Dauber.
"We believe that Judge Persky, himself a Stanford athlete, abused his discretion in granting an overly-lenient sentence and that his decision reflects bias in favor of a privileged defendant," Dauber wrote in an email to NBC Bay Area. "Judge Persky's sentence failed to take account of the serious harms of sexual assault. This is not the first ruling in which Judge Persky did so -- he also made highly questionable evidentiary rulings in the civil litigation over an alleged gang rape of a 17 year old unconscious girl by members of the De Anza baseball team."
Babcock, who describes herself as a “lifelong dedicated feminist,” penned a letter obtained by NBC Bay Area that details the reasons she thinks the recall attempts are misguided.
“In making tough sentencing decisions, judges should not be responsive to public opinion, or fear fear of being removed from office,” she wrote, also noting that a parole board recommended a 6-month county jail sentence. “Even elected judges should be free from outside influences of any kind. That is the essence of unbiased judging.”
She went on to write that she didn’t know Persky personally, but the two had mutual friends who said he is “considered fair and responsible.”
Persky has remained mum following his controversial sentence, despite petitions calling for his removal garnering more than 1 million signatures, a plane flying a “remove Persky” banner over Stanford’s graduation and a giant billboard decrying his tenure on the bench. Running unopposed, he slid into a new 6-year term on June 7.
Numerous local papers have called for his removal, and members of congress have also called for his resignation.
"We need judges, particularly those with jurisdiction over Stanford, who understand sexual assault and sexual violence and who will consider the grave harm to victims when imposing sentence," Dauber wrote.