Voters made history during Tuesday’s California primary election by recalling Santa Clara County Judge Aaron Persky from office.
Persky was widely criticized in 2016 for handing down what some believed was a lenient sentence to Stanford University swimmer Brock Turner, who was convicted of rape. He was cleared of misconduct by a state agency, but that did not satisfy his detractors.
The vote reportedly marked the first time since 1932 that a California judge has been recalled.
In January, organizers collected nearly 100,000 signatures to put the measure to recall Persky from his position on the June ballot. The recall effort was led by Stanford law professor Michele Landis Dauber, who is a family friend of the victim.
Turner, who sexually assaulted an intoxicated female student outside a party at a fraternity house on campus grounds in January 2015, was sentenced to six months in jail — a much leaner sentence than the seven-year prison term prosecutors had wanted.
Turner wound up serving three months of the six-month prison term because of a policy aimed at reducing jail overcrowding. Turner is also required to register as a sex offender for the rest of his life.
“The vote today — if the numbers hold — is a vote against impunity for high-status offenders of domestic violence and sexual violence,” Dauber said, according to the San Jose Mercury News. “This victory is not just for Emily Doe, but for girls and women everywhere.”
Persky reportedly said he arrived at his decision after taking into consideration factors like Turner’s age, his lack of a criminal record, and the fact that both Turner and his victim were drinking.
U.S. Senate candidate Kevin de Leon (D-Los Angeles), New York gubernatorial candidate Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand (D-NY), and the California Nurses Association all endorsed the recall effort.
However, according to the Los Angeles Times, “the legal community has largely opposed the recall, calling it a threat to judicial independence.”
The publication noted that over “90 California law professors, including 20 from Stanford’s law school, have signed a statement opposing it. They say it will encourage judges to give tougher sentences and perpetuate mass incarceration.”