This past March, a California judge sentenced a Stanford University student to six months in prison for sexually assaulting a female student outside of a university frat party in January of 2015. Brock Turner, a member of Stanford’s swimming team, was apprehended by two foreign exchange students who witnessed the assault. Was this justice?
The six-month sentence sparked national outrage, which included petitions to impeach the judge, Aaron Persky. The judge noted Turner’s age (20) and lack of a criminal record to justify the sentence, saying, “A prison sentence would have a severe impact on him, I think he will not be a danger to others.”
Can any person with a sense of justice agree that six months in prison (minus time served) is a fair sentence for a sexual assault of a completely helpless woman? I believe most people would agree that the sentence was a travesty of justice that sends the wrong message.
Texting and Driving.
As bad and inherently unjust as this sentence was, this next case will really have you scratching your head and questioning the fairness of our criminal justice system.
An Iowa mother was recently sentenced to just 14 days in jail for killing a 75-year-old man while texting and driving. The woman, Laura Maurer, was sentenced to 30 days in jail and 200 hours of community service, but 16 days of the sentence were deferred.
When asked whether her sentence was too lenient, Maurer avoided directly answering the question and instead talked about how hard the community service has been on her. She did, however, admit that stricter sentencing for “distracted driving” might be a good deterrent for others.
Unlike the Stanford case, there hasn’t been a national outrage over this sentence. Some people believe it’s due to the age of the victim and that if she had killed a much younger person, it would have been worse for her. Others believe that her actions – texting while driving – are so commonplace now that people are not outraged because they themselves do it.
Was the sentence given to the Stanford sexual offender lighter because of his race and social status, or, was it because he was a “star athlete” at the school? Was the Iowa woman given a lighter sentence because her victim was an elderly man and some lives are more valuable than others?
I believe that everyone can agree that our justice system must be fair and equally applied in order for people to have trust and confidence in it. Let’s just hope that these two cases are an aberration and don’t become the norm.
Until next time, I’m Attorney Francine Ward helping you protect what’s yours. Join my conversation on Facebook, Twitter, or in one of my LinkedIn groups, Google+ Circles.