Commentary Strange Fruit

New information continues to surface about the Stanford rape case. The latest is that Brock Turner, who was caught raping an unconscious woman behind a dumpster, will serve only three months of his 6 month sentence — a sentence already surprisingly short, given his conviction on three felony counts of sexual assault.

New York Daily News senior justice writer Shaun King wrote a piece contrasting Turner’s outcome with the sentence handed down to Corey Batey, a Vanderbilt student who raped an unconscious woman in a dorm room. The similarities are striking: Both were star athletes on campus, both were 19 years old, both had ample evidence against them, and both were convicted on three felony counts.

But there are two big differences: Batey is black. Turner is white. And Batey is serving a mandatory minimum sentence of 15 to 25 years in prison, while Turner is scheduled to be released before the pools close at the end of this summer.

King joins us this week to talk about the case, and about Turner’s short sentence.

“All of us know, and some of us have family and friends, who’ve served devastating hard time for doing far less than this young man,” King says. “He was given breaks that black folks never get. And it’s despicable.”

Research consistently shows that black defendants get longer sentences than white defendants, even for the same offenses. A 2014 study by the ACLU found the disparity around 20 percent; in the federal system, black males tended to receive, on average, a 20 percent longer sentence than white males for the same crimes.

“In this case between Batey and Turner, you’re talking about a 3,000 percent difference,” King says.

We spend this episode talking about the different ways the criminal justice system treats people according to race — including incidents where black people have died in police custody or while being arrested.

And we explore how efforts to bring more equality to the justice system, like Louisville Judge Olu Stevens’ attempts at bringing diversity to the jury box, have been met with resistance.

Laura is the producer of Strange Fruit, a weekly talk show focusing on race and gender, and produces other news & feature programming.