This post is only tangentially about Mexico. I wanted to find some way to join my outraged voice to the millions of others over Judge Aaron Persky’s decision to sentence Brock Turner, the former Stanford student, to six months in a county jail for three counts of sexual assault.

In my work as a mitigation specialist, I have often represented undocumented Mexicans accused of capital murder. I have talked to many Mexicans about this work, and they are usually surprised when I go into details about the corruption of the judicial system in the U.S., as if they believe those problems were exclusive to Mexico. In my work I have dealt with prosecutors who hide evidence, judges who evidently favor the prosecution, and, once in a while, court-appointed defense lawyers whose efforts have been detrimental to the clients.

Suffice it to say that in none of my cases has the client been dealt with anything approaching the sympathy or leniency displayed by Judge Persky for Turner, the college-boy rapist. This article by Ken White, a criminal defense attorney, goes a long to way explain Persky’s decision. 

As if we need any further evidence of the hideous inequality at the core of many U.S. courts, take a look at this story from the New York Times of June 10. It is about a 14-year-old boy who was coerced by the Detroit police into confessing to murders that he did not commit, and who remained in jail for nine years. This was notwithstanding that on the week of his sentencing, another man confessed to the crimes supposedly committed by the boy. It should come as no surprise that Devontae Sanford, the defendant in that case, is black.

What the Times story doesn’t say is whether Sanford spent those nine years in an adult or a juvenile jail. In adult prisons, minors, and even young adults, are frequently brutalized by both guards and older inmates. Would that some judge had had any compassion for young Sanford. But of course he wasn’t white, blond, blue-eyed or a Stanford student.

9 thoughts on “Hideous

  1. Judy - June 14, 2016

    The judge is an ass, and he should step down, but what about the Palo Alto police department, who instead of using Brock’s mugshot used his yearbook picture? What about the media, such as the Washington Post, which mentioned his swimming times and his Olympic hopes and dreams? And his own clueless, enabling father who pleaded leniency because of the “20 minutes of action” that could tragically derail this champ’s life? This is what is appalling, the widespread culture of enablement, coddling, and protection for young, white, affluent males like Brock. Had that girl not written her plea to the judge, she would have been just another forgotten rape statistic. I strongly recommend the book Missoula by Jon Krakauer, which explores in shocking detail the culture of protection that male college athletes enjoy (by colleges, law enforcement, and society at large) while their victims’ lives are destroyed.

  2. Steve Vender - June 14, 2016

    David, thanks for the posting. You and I can talk all night long about the corruption of the U.S. criminal justice system. You know, as a private investigator, specializing in criminal defense for well over twenty years, I have had it with lying, corrupt police officers, prosecutors who are only interested in obtaining convictions to advance their careers, and judges, many of whom were former DA’s, who bend over backward to give every advantage to the prosecution. If you go to the site with the Ken White story, there’s also a story featuring David Simon, creator of the best series ever on tv, The Wire. It’s well worth reading. The justice system in the U.S. is horribly broken, and many people’s lives are destroyed by it. I see it on a day to day basis. However, there are encouraging signs from the citizens. The battles that are being fought against the police in San Francisco and Chicago, because of the horrible number of police murders, is encouraging. Reform is absolutely necessary because people have reached a breaking point.

  3. Rick Schmidt - June 14, 2016

    How is your post EVEN “tangentially about Mexico” as you profess?
    Your politically tainted commentaries about perceived inequities in the American justice system are not what I’m interested in reading when I check in with a blog purportedly about captivating aspects of Mexico City from a gringo resident.
    Please stick to topics where your credibility is supported. We enjoy your MexCity perspectives and thank you for them.

  4. David Lida - June 14, 2016

    Mr. Schmidt, as I thought I explained clearly, the post is tangentially about Mexico because I have worked on the defense teams of Mexican nationals who are incarcerated in the U.S. and were afforded no such privileges or leniency by their judges as Brock Turner. While I thank you for your suggestions about what you believe I am and am not entitled to write and publish on my own web site, allow me to remind you that you are under no obligation to read it.

  5. Dave - June 14, 2016

    Thanks for this perspective. I’ve read enough about the case to find the sentence wholly lacking, and agree with others that race had to play a role. I used to naively think we had a reasonably fair justice system. I know better now.

  6. Consuelo Soto - June 16, 2016

    I enjoy all your posts. This was my favorite post; I appreciated reading your informed view because of your professional experience and because of your innate sense of decency and justice.

  7. C.M. Mayo - June 16, 2016

    Thanks for this post, David. One of your best.

  8. David W - July 5, 2016

    So, should Turner have gotten less time or more time? The fact is calls for longer sentences always result in minorities bearing the brunt. Always. I have practiced criminal defense for 15 years. I can’t think of a single exception in my own practice.

    No matter your opinion of the sentence, the real, enduring and everlasting punishment is registration as a sex offender which not only opens this kid to a lifetime of potential vigilantism but will now mark his passport as such, limit where he can live, prevent him from holding a multitude of jobs, and basically condemn him to a life of poor prospects and the ever present threat of jail for inadvertent failure to comply, interrogation, and suspicion whenever someone is victimized.

    So what, people say? Well, why not just life in prison or the death penalty? Why, indeed. It’s a lifetime of misery we wish upon the sex offender. And that’s what they get once convicted, regardless of how much time they get.

  9. Sergio - August 26, 2016

    Hola David. Here´s an update on the judge in this case. It seems the recall effort will still continue despite he´s decision to move to civil cases. That´s great news. By the way, felicidades on the new book!!! When are we going to hit a cantina in D.F. to celebrate? Saludos…


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