Voters elected to recall Santa Clara County Superior Court Judge Aaron Persky, who held the position since 2003. In 2016 Persky sentenced Stanford University swimmer Brock Turner to six months in prison for sexually assaulting an unconscious woman behind a dumpster in Palo Alto after a fraternity party. This is the first time a California judge was recalled in 87 years.
During Turner's sentencing hearing, the victim read a heart-rending impact statement about how Turner's sexual assault caused lasting damage:
"You have dragged me through this hell with you, dipped me back into that night again and again. You knocked down both our towers. I collapsed at the same time you did. Your damage was concrete, stripped of titles, degrees, enrollment. My damage was internal, unseen. I carry it with me."
Persky said he took her statement into account when he sentenced Turner to the six-month term, even though prosecutors asked for six years. (Turner ended up being released after serving just three months. He appealed the conviction in late 2017, but the California Attorney General's office called his argument "unavailing" and "baseless.")
From Washington Post:
Persky said at the sentencing hearing that he considered the fact that Turner was drinking as a mitigating factor in his sentence. But some, including the Recall Judge Aaron Persky Campaign, charged that Turner's status as an elite, white young athlete at a prestigious university also factored into Persky's decision to be lenient.
In a statement submitted to the Santa Clara County Registrar and that appeared on the ballot, Persky defended himself by saying, "As a prosecutor, I fought vigorously for victims. As a judge, my role is to consider both sides. California law requires every judge to consider rehabilitation and probation for first-time offenders. It's not always popular, but it's the law, and I took an oath to follow it without regard to public opinion or my opinions as a former prosecutor."
Writing for Vox, a public defender named Rachel Marshall argues that the recall sets a bad precedent: "In my work as a public defender in Oakland, California, I have observed how the recall effort has changed judges, whether consciously or not, making them more timid about taking risks on defendants who deserve mercy."