Aaron Persky, the California judge who has been the focus of much protest following his issuing of a controversial, “pathetic” and lenient sentence of six months in the sexual assault case that involved former Stanford University swimmer, has now been removed from overseeing a new, unrelated sex assault case at the request of the prosecutors.
The Santa Clara County District Attorney’s office made the announcement regarding the much criticized judge after attorney Jeff Rosen filed a peremptory challenge against the judge on Tuesday using a procedure known as 170.6, which is reserved for judges that the prosecutor may feel is biased towards a case. The new case from which Persky was removed would have seen him deciding whether or not a former male surgical nurse, Kaiser Permanente, committed and should be tried for allegedly sexually assaulting a sedated patient.
The district attorney says that though rare, the move was carefully considered before the steps to have Judge Persky removed from the upcoming trial were taken.
— Xeni Jardin (@xeni) June 15, 2016
The backlash that the California judge is facing from the Brock Turner trial has also been coming from he jurors who served on the case, with one even famously saying that they were “shocked and appalled” to hear of the lenient sentence the judge had given the former Stanford swimmer after the jury had found him guilty of rape. According to Almanac News, several potential jurors for the upcoming sexual assault case reportedly refused to serve as long as Persky was the presiding judge.
The challenge which Rosen employed to have Persky removed from the sexual assault case, known as papering, is a rule in California that the district attorney or the defense attorney of a case can invoke to unilaterally remove a judge from a trial if they are of the opinion that the judge is prejudiced. In such a circumstance, the impartiality of the judge would be in question and they would thus be automatically disqualified, with no need to show cause.
Rosen’s decision was also based on Judge Persky dismissing a misdemeanor stolen property case with the claim that the state had not proven its case while they were still in the middle of the trial and the jury had not even deliberated yet. Rosen says that they “lack confidence” in Judge Pesky.
“We are disappointed and puzzled at Judge Persky’s unusual decision to unilaterally dismiss a case before the jury could deliberate. After this and the recent turn of events, we lack confidence that Judge Persky can fairly participate in this upcoming hearing in which a male nurse sexually assaulted an anesthetized female patient. In the future, we will evaluate each case on its own merits and decide if we should use our legal right to ask for another judge in order to protect public safety and pursue justice.”
With Judge Persky facing recall efforts well as the call for him to be disciplined for handing out that six-month sentence to Brock Turner, this lack of confidence from the district attorney will be really troublesome for him. The move could also be used to send a message to Persky and Rosen’s words about being more careful could spell even bigger problems for him.
— Esquire (@esquire) June 13, 2016
California has an even more rarely used rule, known as blanket papering, that the LA Times says would see a judge removed from all the future cases of the district attorney’s office, indefinitely. In such a case, the judge would possibly be moved to another part of the court system, such as to preside over civil cases instead or moved to another courthouse entirely in order to continue functioning on the bench. Thus far, the DA has not indicated if they intend to apply this rule to Judge Aaron Persky.
Persky was appointed by Gov. Gray Davis to the bench in 2003, and will be up for re-election in November. Anita Torres, a spokeswoman for the Santa Clara County Registrar of Voters says that, despite the movement to recall Persky, no official paperwork has been submitted to challenge or recall the judge. Historically, no judge has successfully been recalled in California.
[Photo by Eric Risberg/ AP Images]