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Sunday, November 28, 2021

Columns

Stanford case sentencing evidence of racial bias


Our legal system is in favor of the affluent, privileged white male. Brock Turner is a prime example.

Turner was sentenced to six months in jail after being found guilty of three felony counts of sexual assault by prosecutors. Clearly, that’s a tap on the wrist compared to California’s maximum of 14 years.

Judge Aaron Persky sentenced Turner with his age, lack of criminal history and well-being in mind. This is false reasoning — these factors don’t excuse the heinous nature of this crime.

Would Turner have received the same leniency had he been a minority? Would Persky have been more lax if the former Stanford swimmer was African American and had no criminal history?

Corey Batey, a then–19-year-old black football star at Vanderbilt University, was sentenced 15 to 25 years in prison for sexually assaulting an unconscious woman. There’s also Brian Banks, the then–16-year-old promising black athlete in Long Beach who spent five years and two months behind bars for a rape he didn’t commit.

Now compare these cases to a then–17-year-old white Christopher Plaskon from Connecticut. He received 25 years after killing a girl who refused his prom invitation, but revised juvenile sentencing laws could scale his punishment down to 13 years.

The justice system works against minorities for all scales of crimes. Kalief Browder, who was black, served three years — two in solitary confinement — in Rikers Island after being suspected of stealing a backpack.

The case was later dismissed. Three months after his release, Browder took his own life.

For certain places, like California where Turner was convicted, racial disparity is normal. The American Civil Liberties Union wrote a submission mentioning that studies show “blacks are sentenced under the state’s three-strike law at far higher rates than their white counterparts.”

What’s worse is how this white privilege is setting a precedent for future cases, especially regarding those who claim they remember being given consent under the influence of alcohol.

Persky’s decision to not give Turner reasonable punishment will allow rapists without priors to stride into the courtroom knowing that the worst they’ll get is a probation.

How might this nullify the mental anguish that follows the victims for the rest of their lives?

To Persky, Turner isn’t a danger to others. But he is just that, especially to women. Who’s to say Turner won’t return to the same level of intoxication that allegedly drove him to act that night?

The racial disparity in our criminal justice and sentencing system is too great to be ignored. As Turner’s victim eloquently put it, “sexual assault is against the law, regardless of social class.”

Sanjuanita Gonzales is a print journalism junior and can be reached at [email protected]

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