Lily white gets sentence light; judge under fire (judiciary independence gone too far?)

I didn’t want to do another post even mentioning Donald Trump for a while, but tangentially his criticizing a judge who is trying a case against him figures in here:

A judge in Santa Clara County, California is the subject of a petition drive by citizens to have him removed from office after giving a college swimmer at Stanford a super lenient sentence in a sexual assault case. The 18-year-old could have gotten 14 years and the prosecutor wanted to give him six years, but the judge gave him six months jail and three years’ probation, and it has now been reported that he will probably only serve three months in jail, with time off for “good behavior”.

You can of course read all the sordid details and the names on the web and other news outlets.

But as I understand it, you have a white college athlete attacking a young woman, who was herself a college graduate. By their own admission, they were both drunk at the time, having attended a fraternity party.

From something the victim wrote, I gather that she expected there would be an apology and an out-of-court settlement. But the attacker chose to go to trial and plead not guilty, although he admits he did have some type of sexual encounter with the victim, and furthermore he blames it all on the party culture of college.

This may sound inappropriate here, and I don’t at all mean to make light of such a terrible thing, but it rather sounds like a college girl I heard say: “I just don’t have enough time to study with all the parties”.

So what I meant was, the young sexual attacker’s excuse is about in the same category, absurd.

(I went back to college in my 40s and this is when I heard the coed say that.)

But while I think the GOP presumptive nominee for president is wrong to publicly criticize the judge in his case because that threatens the independence of the judiciary — and we cannot have a rule of law without an independent judiciary — I also see a place for the judiciary to have public accountability.

Here, a judge has seemingly assaulted the conscience of the public. His excuse for the lenient sentence was that more time in jail would severely impact the young man’s future.

I’m sure it would. For good or bad. I’m also relatively sure the young man’s actions have severely impacted the life of his victim.

I also suspect had the young man not been Lilly white his sentence would have been much harsher.

His father asked for lenience and said his son should not have his life ruined for “20 minutes of action”. He later admitted to poor phrasing. And I think we know what he meant, but still…

Oh, and the victim said she in no way recalls giving her consent to sexual contact. The young man claims she did.

I don’t know the details of what he actually did but as I understand it she was physically injured. Doesn’t sound like love to me.

Two passersby, a couple of guys from Sweden, came to her rescue and caught up with the attacker who attempted to flee. As I understand it he was caught in the act.

While most reports I have read show public outrage against the young athlete and as much or more against the judge, I did hear at least one woman caller on a talk show say that although she had nothing but contempt for the attacker, she still wondered about the victim, that is to say whether she was someone of loose morals (my wording, and it sounds quaint). I would say apparently not. And the attacker should know that attacking someone is against the law no matter who or what they are. I mean was not he a college student?.

In this case, the judge has as much to answer for as the convicted young man.

And maybe it was a tough call. I mean when you get past the understandable emotions, you’re talking about the life of a young person who made a grave, grave error. But one also wonders if the judge would have been so inclined if the convicted person had been someone of color and someone with not as much potential ahead of him. And that would not be justice to have someone who committed a like crime to receive much more severe punishment — but people have gotten life.

Yes, we need an independent judiciary, otherwise judges could not make fair and equitable decisions because of public or political pressure, but in the end it is the public they serve and the public they must be accountable to. Even a Supreme Court justice can be impeached and removed from office.

 

p.s.

I didn’t mention that the victim was found by her rescuers and emergency personnel to be “unconscious”.

And I have now read that subsequent to the judge’s decision, several jurors in other trials are refusing the serve with him on the bench. One article suggested that while some may be actually protesting his decision, others just are trying to get out of jury duty.

 

 
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