A former Stanford University swimmer whose sexual assault of an incapacitated woman drew national headlines and widespread scorn lost his bid for a new trial Wednesday, pushing him closer to having to register as a sex offender for the rest of his life.
The three-judge panel of the 6th District Court of Appeal in San Jose, California, ruled Brock Turner, convicted of sex assault and attempted rape, received a fair trial.
In 2016, a jury convicted Turner of assaulting the intoxicated and unconscious woman outside an on-campus fraternity party.
The case got national attention after the victim’s powerful statement, which she read in court before Turner was sentenced, was shared widely online.
She recounted the assault, her treatment by investigators and the ordeal of facing questions about her sexual activity and drinking habits. It quickly went viral.
“Instead of taking time to heal, I was taking time to recall the night in excruciating detail, in order to prepare for the attorney’s questions that would be invasive, aggressive and designed to steer me off course, to contradict myself, my sister, phrased in ways to manipulate my answers,” she wrote. “This was a game of strategy, as if I could be tricked out of my own worth.”
Two graduate students on bicycles interrupted the assault and saw Turner on top of the victim, "who appeared to be asleep," according to the appeals court decision.
After seeing the victim's helpless condition, one of the bikers yelled to Turner and said "She's unconscious," the court decision said. Turner then tried to run away but was tackled by the biker.
Turner "smiled and tried to get free," but was unable to do so, the court document said.
Judge Aaron Persky rejected a prosecutor’s demand for a lengthy prison term and instead sentenced Turner to six months in jail. He was released from jail in September 2016 after serving three months.
Persky’s sentence sparked nationwide outrage by those who felt it too lenient.
Voters recalled Persky in June.
The sentence was not part of the appeal and the judges didn’t address it.
Turner filed an appeal in December seeking a new trial, arguing that the evidence presented at his trial didn’t support his convictions. The jury convicted him of sexually assaulting an intoxicated victim, sexually assaulting an unconscious victim and attempting to rape her.
Judge Franklin Elia, writing for the unanimous panel, said there was “substantial evidence” to support conviction of all three charges. In particular, the judge pointed out that Turner tried to run from the graduate students who confronted him assaulting the then-22-year-old woman.
“He did not explain or defend himself to them,” Elia wrote. “And he lied to police about running.”
Turner could petition the California Supreme Court to consider his appeal. Turner’s attorney Eric Multhaup didn’t return a phone call Wednesday.
Stanford law professor Michelle Dauber, who led the judge’s recall campaign, called on Turner to drop any further appeals.
“The appellate court has now rejected that idea, and I think everyone, including Brock Turner, would be better served by accepting the jury’s verdict and moving on,” she said.
Turner lives outside Dayton, Ohio, with his parents. Pending further appeal, he is required to register as a sex offender for life.
Contributing: Associated Press