[Sept. 2016 Opinions] How Brock Turner symbolizes the fault in our justice system

By Colette Lippman ’17 Opinions Editor and Megan Brown ’17

Brock Turner: the astoundingly talented Stanford freshman swimmer and now infamous rapist (well, according to Judge Aaron Persky, it was only sexual assault). Despite clear evidence proving him guilty of rape, Turner was released from prison three months early from his six-month sentence, already an extremely short sentence for a rape case. And it’s no coincidence that Turner’s short sentence is a result of his white privilege and social status.


In the American justice system, it’s evident that race and social status undoubtedly affect a criminal’s sentence. In fact, according to the NAACP website, “African Americans are incarcerated at nearly six times the rate of whites.”


Someone who’s part of that statistic is the then sixteen-year-old Brian Banks, who was accused of raping a fellow classmate in a high school stairwell. Banks was an African-American former linebacker on his high school football team who also had a promising future with the NFL.


Here’s the difference. Sixteen-year-old Brian Banks was tried as an adult and sentenced to prison for five years under an accusation of rape and is now a registered sex offender, while eighteen-year-old Turner only faced a six-month sentence for the charge of rape, and was released halfway through for “good behavior.”


Here’s another important difference:  Banks was eventually found to be innocent, and all charges against him were dropped, while Turner is known to be, without any margin of doubt, guilty.


When Banks was given the opportunity to speak his mind on Turner’s case, he stated, “I would say it’s a case of privilege. It seems like the judge based his decision on lifestyle.”


Why was Turner released so early? The answer is affluenza. Affluenza is often used as a means of lessening charges for crimes committed by privileged white people because they “didn’t know any better”. According to CNN, “The term highlights the issue of parents, particularly upper-middle-class ones, who not only refuse to discipline their children but may protest the efforts of others — school officials, law enforcement and the courts — who attempt to do so,” Suniya Luthar, a professor of psychology at Arizona State University said.  Again, this isn’t to bash white males or white people in general, it’s just outrageous that affluenza can be used to lessen charges of rape.


A Change.org petetion that removed Judge Aaron Persky, the deciding factor in Turner’s sentence, said, “Judge Persky failed to see that the fact that Brock Turner is a white male star athlete at a prestigious university does not entitle him to leniency”.


Somehow, Turner’s father successfully convinced the judge that Turner’s punishment was irrational and that probation would be a better punishment because the event occurred as a result of binge drinking. “That is a steep price to pay for 20 minutes of action out of his 20 plus years of life.” This, among other groundless statements, proved to lighten Turner’s consequence.


Situations like the Brock Turner case must be prevented in the future, and this is only possible if the justice system alters the way it treats rape cases in terms of race. The response of this case has been degrading to not only victims everywhere, but comparatively to the African American community. Brock Turner is free after three months with a clean record, while Brian Banks, now 31, will carry the label of a sex offender for a false accusation for the rest of his life.