Brock Turner files appeal in sex-assault case | News | Palo Alto Online |


Brock Turner files appeal in sex-assault case

Calling trial 'fundamentally unfair,' former Stanford student seeks new one

Former Stanford University student-athlete Brock Turner, who was convicted of sexual assault of an unconscious and intoxicated woman, exits the Santa Clara County Main Jail after serving three months of a six-month sentence on Sept. 2. Photo by Veronica Weber.

A year and a half after a jury found Brock Turner guilty of sexually assaulting an unconscious woman on campus, the former Stanford University student is appealing his conviction.

Court records show that Mill Valley attorney Eric Multhaup filed an opening brief in the 6th District Court of Appeal on Turner's behalf on Friday, Dec. 1. Multhaup specializes in appeals in serious felony cases, according to his website.

The 172-page appeal describes Turner's trial as "fundamentally unfair" and requests a new one.

A Santa Clara County jury last March found Turner guilty on three felony counts: assault with the intent to commit rape, sexual penetration with a foreign object of an intoxicated person and sexual penetration with a foreign object of an unconscious person. Two graduate students testified that they had found Turner on top of the young woman, referred to anonymously as Emily Doe, outside a fraternity party they had both attended.

Turner was sentenced to six months in county jail, a sentence that sparked wide outrage and has led to a high-profile campaign to recall the judge who oversaw the case, Aaron Persky.

Turner was also sentenced to three years of probation and to register as a sex offender for life. He served half of his jail time before being released.

Turner originally filed a notice to appeal in July 2016, shortly after his release from jail, according to court records.

Citing extensively from other cases as evidence for their position, Multhaup argues that Turner was deprived of his right to due process and that the jury was prejudiced for several reasons. The appeal states that evidence of key character traits — namely, Turner's credibility and honesty — was "erroneously" excluded and the jury was influenced by "extensive 'behind-the-dumpster' propaganda" by the prosecution, who described the assault as taking place behind a dumpster outside the fraternity house where Turner and Doe met.

The prosecution "mischaracteriz(ed) the evidence in a manner that made appellant look more like a calculating predator and made Ms. Doe look more like a vulnerable victim," the appeal states. "The image that the sexual contact occurred 'behind the dumpster' implies a sordid and debasing interaction in a place where no woman would voluntarily engage in sexual contact.

"Law-abiding citizens simply do not congregate behind a dumpster," the appeal reads.

Several character witnesses testified on Turner's behalf at the trial, including his former girlfriend, swim coach and friend from his hometown in Ohio.

Multhaup also argues that there was insufficient evidence for each conviction. For the most serious felony, assault with intent to commit rape, the appeal argues that "weight of the evidence," the appeal states, shows that Turner "did not (intend) to have sexual intercourse with Ms. Doe but rather to engage in sexual contact short of sexual intercourse."

Multhaup declined to comment to the Weekly, writing in an email that he had "expressed my views about the unfairness of the conviction in the brief and don't have much to add until it's time to file the reply brief sometime next year." 

In a statement, Santa Clara County District Attorney Jeff Rosen said that Turner's conviction will be upheld.

"Brock Turner received a fair trial and was justly convicted," Rosen said. "Nothing can ever roll back Emily Doe’s legacy of raising the world’s awareness about sexual assault.”

Michele Dauber, the Stanford law professor leading the recall effort, also contested the argument that Turner's trial was unfair.

"The jury heard the evidence and decisively rejected Turner's efforts to blame the victim," she said. "The problem with this case wasn't that Judge Persky was unfair to Brock Turner, it was that Judge Persky was unfair to the victim when he sentenced Turner to only a few months in county jail."

Turner's appeal opens with an acknowledgment of the "inordinate amount of publicity, public outcry, and vituperation" the case has generated, urging the Court of Appeals to avoid its influence.

"In the course of this media excess, numerous misstatements, misrepresentations, and misunderstandings have pervaded the public perception of the facts of the case, and may have permeated the hallowed halls located on the 10th floor at 333 W. Santa Clara Street," the appeal states. "Counsel for appellant makes a particular plea that this Court distance itself from the media renditions of the case in favor of immersion in the actual evidence."

Also on Friday, the Sixth District Court of Appeal denied Persky's request to block the recall campaign from collecting the signatures necessary to put the measure on the June ballot. Three justices -- Franklin Elia, Eugene Premo and Adrienne Grover -- issued a one-sentence ruling that stated Persky's "petition for writ of mandate or other appropriate relief and the request for stay are denied."

Persky has been going to the courts to prevent the recall from proceeding, including by arguing that the secretary of state, rather than the Santa Clara County Registrar of Voters, should oversee the recall, and that the replacement for a recalled judge should be appointed by the governor rather than elected.

In August, a judge rejected these arguments and ruled in favor of the recall campaign.

Dauber said the campaign has collected 76,000 signatures so far, closing in on the 90,000 needed by March to qualify for the June 5 ballot.

Read complete coverage of the Brock Turner case.


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72 people like this
Posted by Ted
a resident of another community
on Dec 2, 2017 at 10:49 am

Sentence was a joke. He’s lucky he didn’t get years in prison. Now, please just go away...reject the appeal.

95 people like this
Posted by Online Name
a resident of Embarcadero Oaks/Leland
on Dec 2, 2017 at 11:44 am

Online Name is a registered user.

If this does go to trial, maybe this time he'll finally get the sentence he deserves.

3 people like this
Posted by Jane
a resident of Crescent Park
on Dec 2, 2017 at 1:10 pm

[Post removed.]

2 people like this
Posted by parent
a resident of Stanford
on Dec 2, 2017 at 2:02 pm

[Post removed.]

9 people like this
Posted by Jane
a resident of Crescent Park
on Dec 2, 2017 at 2:40 pm

[Portion removed.] People often form opinions based on the way a person looks. The wide-eyed photo of Brock and another one of him with bushy hair makes him look less appealing while there are probably others of him nicely dressed and smiling that would make him look less like a perp. There are no photos of Jane Doe at all from which people can form an opinion of any kind. [Portion removed.]

20 people like this
Posted by Jane
a resident of Crescent Park
on Dec 2, 2017 at 2:53 pm

Jurors aren't always right. My sister was recently on a jury where all but one or two of the jurors were sure that the repeat offender was guilty. The small minority would not give in and the ones who thought she was guilty, including my sister, wanted to go home so they went along with the "reasonable doubt" decision just to get out of there.

Have you been following the Steinle trial? Should Garcia have been acquitted? Many don't agree with the verdict although the Jury felt it was just.

My comments were about the public's perception of Brock vs. Jane Does. The public has never seen Doe and never will. There are no photos, Facebook posts, interviews with friends, employer's on which to base an opinion of her. We've seen Brock's photo and read about him in the press. He will be a sex offender for life. He did not get off easy.

23 people like this
Posted by Reader
a resident of Esther Clark Park
on Dec 2, 2017 at 3:06 pm

[Portion removed.]

Two kids got drunk at a party. One passed out. The other raped her. Witnesses saw it and stopped him from running away. The jury heard the evidence and convicted him of multiple felonies. It could all be wrong, but in the absence of any evidence, why would you think so?

18 people like this
Posted by Palo Alto
a resident of Stanford
on Dec 2, 2017 at 3:20 pm

"When you judge another, you do not define them. You define yourself."

123 people like this
Posted by Abitarian
a resident of Downtown North
on Dec 2, 2017 at 4:10 pm

Abitarian is a registered user.

Jane --

Emily Doe's appearance does not matter. Emily Doe's past behavior does not matter. Sexual assault is never justified. Never.

It reflects very poorly on your sister that she would change her vote while on a jury because she "wanted to go home". It only shows that she lacks the moral courage to stand up for her convictions and believes her own inconvenience is more important than justice.

Finally, by attempting to appeal his conviction, Brock Turner, once again, takes no responsibility for his actions and shows no remorse for the harm he has caused another human being.

23 people like this
Posted by Curmudgeon
a resident of Downtown North
on Dec 3, 2017 at 5:44 pm

Curmudgeon is a registered user.

Turner's doubtless shopping for a more lenient judge

22 people like this
Posted by SUMidtown
a resident of Midtown
on Dec 4, 2017 at 12:36 pm

SUMidtown is a registered user.

This sentence didn't sit with me well or make sense for that matter, "The appeal states that evidence of key character traits — namely, Turner's credibility and honesty — was "erroneously" excluded..." It seems to me that a credible and honest man would have helped Emily Doe. If Brock was credible and honest, he would have been flagging down the two graduate students who saw him and Emily to help him find help for the her or get her home safely.

26 people like this
Posted by Mom of daughters
a resident of Duveneck/St. Francis
on Dec 4, 2017 at 12:38 pm

Mom of daughters is a registered user.

First of all - I love the statement "Emily Doe’s legacy of raising the world’s awareness about sexual assault", I believe her honest, thoughtful and challenging words were the beginning of the current nationwide push back against sexual assault and harassment.

Second - I find it somewhat ironic that a teacher was sentenced to 5 year for molesting teenage boys at the same time as a convicted rapist who served only 3 months in jail is asking for a new trial.

@Curmudgeon - not sure he could find a more lenient judge.

13 people like this
Posted by Novelera
a resident of Midtown
on Dec 4, 2017 at 5:39 pm

Novelera is a registered user.

Turner is obviously trying to make the whole thing go away; i.e., not being a registered sex offender and not having lost his "big chance" at having a Stanford degree because he is a good swimmer. So Santa Clara County taxpayers are supposed to foot the bill for a new trial so he can get off scot free? This news story almost seems like something from The Onion; i.e., a satiric joke story.

2 people like this
Posted by Gunn Dad
a resident of Gunn High School
on Dec 5, 2017 at 9:14 am

Gunn Dad is a registered user.

On a related topic: why were the witness reports of Blake Bolton and Jason Robbins apparently not made part of the prosecution or defense cases? In the case docs I see them mentioned only in the original police reports: Web Link

Bolton said he saw a male standing over the victim shining his phone camera light at her. A couple hours later, the police saw on Turner's phone a group chat message asking "whos t*t is that?" The latter revelation made headlines in June 2016, but it seems not to have figured in the sentencing arguments. Was this damning evidence discredited or otherwise excluded? Bolton says the male left as Bolton checked on the victim.

Robbins said he called 911 because he saw the woman lying in the grass with nobody else around.

Both accounts seem inconsistent with the testimony of Turner and the two good samaritans.

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