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.