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.