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The Judge of the Brock Turner Trial Approved a Harsher Sentence for a Latino Defendant

The similarities in the two cases highlight the racial biases that plague the criminal justice system.

By Kate Wheeling


(Photo: bloomsberries/Flickr)

Judge Aaron Persky — the same judge who oversaw the Brock Turner rape case — approved of a significantly harsher sentence for Raul Ramirez, a 32-year-old Latino man facing similar charges in Santa Clara County, California, the Guardianreports.

Earlier this month, Persky used his judiciary discretion to sentence Turner to just six months in jail, well below the minimum two years that state law usually requires. Turner was convicted of assault with intent to commit rape of an intoxicated person, sexually penetrating an intoxicated person with a foreign object, and sexually penetrating an unconscious person with a foreign object. But Turner has yet to take responsibility for his crimes, instead blaming Stanford’s party culture. Though Ramirez, whose crime bears some resemblance to Turner’s, has admitted guilt and apologized to his victim, he will serve three years in state prison.

The similar cases highlight the racial biases that plague the criminal-justice system; minorities are routinely convicted at higher rates and serve longer sentences than whites. (Blacks and Hispanics are also more likely than whites to be the victims of violent crime.) It also shows just how far privilege can go in the criminal justice system, because Turner’s case was the outlier of the two.

Turner was technically convicted of sexual assault, rather than rape, under California law. But, as Vox reports:

[W]henever Turner’s crime is reported to the FBI for data collection purposes, it will most likely be reported as a ‘rape,’ which the FBI defines as ‘penetration, no matter how slight, of the vagina or anus with any body part or object, or oral penetration by a sex organ of another person, without the consent of the victim.’

Eighty-six percent of felons convicted of rape in state courts wind up incarcerated, according to a Bureau of Justice Statistics report. The majority of those felons— 72 percent — serve time in state prisons, rather than jails. That’s because the average sentence for rape is significantly longer than Turner’s; the same report showed that, on average, convicted rapists are sentenced to prison terms of up to 11.5 years. Few prisoners serve their maximum-sentence terms, however, and Turner himself will likely only serve three of his six-month sentence behind bars.

Which means, in at least one sense, Turner’s case seems average; a 1995 report from the BJS found that felons convicted of sexual assault and rape only served about half of their sentences.