SUSAN K. SMITH
GEORGE CURRY MEDIA
Their names will – or should – become household words: Brian Banks and Brock Turner. Both are athletes. Both were good students with no criminal histories. One, Banks, is Black. Turner is White. Both were accused and convicted of rape.
Banks was 16 and still in high school in 2003 when he was accused and convicted. He spent a year in juvenile detention before his case came up and faced a sentence of 41 years to life, but a judge eventually gave him six years. He served five years and two months of his sentence before he was released.
Didn’t do it
But he didn’t commit rape. His accuser recanted her story in 2012. By then, the life of this once-promising football player had been forever altered. He missed graduating from high school and could not go to college, though he had committed to play at the University of Southern California.
Turner is 20, a student at Stanford University, and a champion swimmer. In 2015, he was caught in the act of raping an unconscious woman behind a dumpster. A jury convicted him of three felony counts of rape.
Santa Clara County Judge Aaron Persky thought that prison time would be damaging to the young man. His exact words: “A prison sentence would have a severe impact on him.” Turner was sentenced to only six months (with the possibility of early parole), though he faced the possibility of 14 years. His father pleaded with the court for even more leniency.
The Turner sentence sparked outrage. Thousands of people signed petitions protesting the sentence and demanding that Judge Persky be removed from the bench. It is unlikely that the outrage will have any effect.
People are saying that the six-month sentence is unfortunate, but that the “system worked.”
That’s the same system, one must suppose, that worked for Ethan Couch, the young White youth who pleaded guilty to four counts of intoxication manslaughter.
Prosecutors sought a 20-year prison sentence, but Couch received no jail time. His attorney argued that he was sick; that his affluence had affected his ability to make good decisions.
When Brian Banks was accused, convicted, and sentenced for a rape he didn’t commit, there was no outrage. And it took time between the recantation of Banks’ accuser and his release from jail. There was no hurry, no concern about how this entire experience had affected, or would affect, this young man.
Turner got a free pass. The woman whom he raped was ignored. She pleaded for justice. Her long letter was read to the judge, to the court, and now to the public, but for naught. The rich White kid has virtually gotten away with rape.
Banks now works for the National Football League – not as a player, but in the NFL offices. He still remembers the all-White jury pronouncing him guilty and the people in the courtroom that day regarding him with disdain. Nobody, it seems, cried at Banks’ conviction and nobody cared that his life was ruined.
It is the law of the land in these United States: justice for some, not justice for all – especially if you are an African-American male.
Someone said that Turner’s life is forever ruined. He has been ordered to register as a sex offender. He will not be able to compete as a swimmer anymore, and he probably will not be able to go to college.
Or maybe he will.
Rev. Susan K. Smith is an author and ordained minister who is founder of Crazy Faith Ministries.
Contact her at firstname.lastname@example.org.