I am overjoyed that so-called “judge” Aaron Persky has been fired from his job. As you may recall, after a rich white man named Brock Turner violently raped a woman behind a dumpster, fellow rich white man Aaron Persky sentenced him to a pathetically short stint in jail. The backlash was immediate, and a campaign began to get the voters to recall Persky.
Advocates of criminal justice reform immediately worried about the precedent this would set, and they have a good point. Judges who fear voter backlash may “throw the book” at criminal defendants, imposing much harsher punishments than is merited by the facts of the case or history of the criminal’s life. There will be times when mercy is warranted but judges will look at this case and be too frightened to show mercy. Persky’s many enemies are short-sighted and foolish to dismiss this reality, and especially the fact that a new “tough on crime” attitude will harm black and brown people much more than rich, privileged white men.
But while recognizing that the recall of “judge” Persky can give other judges bad incentives and frustrate efforts to implement criminal justice reform, removing this corrupt man from office was still the right thing to do. Turner has absolutely no remorse for his crime, backed up by his so-called “father,” who dismissed a violent rape as “twenty minutes of action.” Releasing Turner back onto the streets puts more innocent women in danger of being violently raped by this sexual predator. The reason God gave the sword to the civil magistrate is to protect the innocent from the guilty.
We can hold corrupt “judges” accountable while also working toward meaningful reform. Pursuing the latter goal does not mean we need to abandon accountability.