Brock Turner: Sorting Through the Noise

25 Pages Posted: 13 Sep 2017

See all articles by Michael Vitiello

Michael Vitiello

University of the Pacific - McGeorge School of Law

Date Written: May 10, 2017


This article begins with a quick test. The author asks his readers to spend a few moments reacting to “Brock Turner.” In response, no doubt, many think, “Stanford rapist,” “white privilege,” “special treatment for an elite college athlete,” and perhaps, “illegal sentence.” Certainly, that reaction is not surprising, given racial bias in sentencing and special treatment for elite college athletes. The public response to Judge Aaron Persky’s sentence was quite negative even before Stanford Law Professor Michele Landis Dauber, a family friend of the victim, began a recall effort. The recall efforts have kept the case in the public’s eye. While some members of the public and profession have spoken out against the recall, it seems to be on pace to get on the ballot in the fall of this year. As troubling as Turner’s sentence is for many observers, issues posed by a judicial recall are quite distinct. The article challenges the media for its role in inflaming public opinion about the case. While the sentence seems far too short in light of Turner’s conduct, an examination of California sentencing criteria, as well as the probation report that Judge Persky relied on in determining Turner’s sentence, makes the case more complicated than widely reported in the media. Even assuming that one disagrees with Judge Persky’s sentence, the article argues that California has led the nation in over reliance on long prison sentences, the result of all-too-familiar-get-tough-on-crime rhetoric. That has led the state to spend unnecessary billions of dollars warehousing offenders who do not represent a serious public safety risk. The article concludes that judicial recall will result in unnecessary additional years of imprisonment for criminal defendants because judges, consciously or unconsciously, may fear for their livelihood if vocal members of the public deem their sentences too lenient.

Suggested Citation

Vitiello, Michael, Brock Turner: Sorting Through the Noise (May 10, 2017). McGeorge Law Review, Forthcoming, Pacific McGeorge School of Law Research Paper, Available at SSRN: or

Michael Vitiello (Contact Author)

University of the Pacific - McGeorge School of Law ( email )

3200 Fifth Avenue
Sacramento, CA 95817
United States

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