A former member of Stanford’s swim team, Brock Turner, lost an appeal of his conviction on three counts of rape for sexually assaulting an unconscious woman in 2015. His attorney argued that because Turner was clothed and hadn’t penetrated the woman with his genitals, that no intent to rape occurred, and described it as “sexual outercourse.”
A jury had found Turner guilty of assault with an intent to commit rape, as well as two counts related to using a foreign object to penetrate a person while intoxicated or unconscious. His victim was both. Her identity remains private.
The three judges on California’s 6th District Court of Appeal disagreed that errors had occurred in the trial, and denied the appeal. An appeal typically relies on faults during a trial in jury instructions or errors of law in a judge’s decision. During the appeals hearing on July 25, Justice Franklin Elia told Turner’s lawyer, “I absolutely don’t understand what you are talking about.”
The appeal related partly to the consequences of conviction, as Turner served only a short sentence. But as the crime occurred when he was an adult, the felonies remain on his record, and he will remain a registered sex offender throughout his life.
The Turner case had already received national attention, when the trial judge, Aaron Persky, imposed a six-month sentence while making statements that seemingly favored Turner rather than the rape victim. “A prison sentence would have a severe impact on him,” Persky said during sentencing. Prosecutors had asked for a six-year sentence and the maximum was 14 years. Turner served just three months based on good conduct in jail.
Persky was recalled as judge in June 2018, the first judge in the state removed from office since 1932. Meanwhile, California passed a law requiring a minimum sentence in sexual assault cases.