Brock Turner is appealing his sexual assault conviction based on the use of the term “dumpster”

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Amy Swales

His legal team says that the convicted sex offender did not receive a fair trial, and that the connotations of the setting unfairly influenced the jury.

Brock Turner was found guilty last year of sexually assaulting an unconscious woman in a case that caused international outrage, for both the way Turner’s aspiring sports career was referenced as a mitigating factor and for the length of his sentence.

Now the former Stanford University student is appealing his conviction on grounds that include misconduct from the prosecution team – part of which is his legal team’s assertion that the incident took place somewhere more public than “behind a dumpster”.

The dumpster assertion, his team argues, meant that the jury assumed he wanted to “shield and sequester his activities”.

Turner was found guilty on three counts: assault with intent to commit rape of an intoxicated woman, sexually penetrating an intoxicated person with a foreign object, and sexually penetrating an unconscious person with a foreign object.

Police officers attending the scene on campus at the California university found the woman “completely unresponsive” and partially clothed. Turner claimed the incident was consensual. He was sentenced to six months, serving three, after the judge said a longer sentence would have a “severe impact” on the aspiring athlete. The judge was later cleared of misconduct.

According to The Mercury News, as reported by, Turner’s team is arguing that the unconscious woman was found between a three-sided rubbish enclosure and a basketball court (from where the witnesses who chased and caught Turner approached).

This, they say, proves that he was not attempting to hide what he was doing, and furthermore, claim the word “dumpster” contributed to an unfair trial, as it implies “moral depravity” and “connotations of filth.”

The paper reports that the 172-page brief reads: “The prejudicial aspects of this ‘behind-the-dumpster’ characterization were twofold: (1) it implied an intent on the appellant’s part to shield and sequester his activities with Ms. Doe from the view of others; and (2) it implied moral depravity, callousness, and culpability on the appellant’s part because of the inherent connotations of filth, garbage, detritus and criminal activity frequently generally associated with dumpsters.

“The cumulative effect of this misleading course of conduct deprived appellant of a fair trial.”

The appeal, reproduced here by The New York Times,  also says that the prosecution failed to provide “constitutionally sufficient evidence”, cites the exclusion of some character witnesses, and accuses Aaron Persky, the Santa Clara judge, of failing to “adequately respond to a critical jury question”.

The woman’s emotional and articulate impact statement, as well as a subsequent essay on her experiences, made waves worldwide in the wake of the court case, highlighting several issues, including how sexual assault victims are treated by the courts – especially if they had been drinking. The appeal papers consistently reference her level of intoxication.

In her statement, published in full by Buzzfeed, she recounted traumatic details, including how a newspaper article was the way she discovered more about how she was found, and how Turner had claimed she had consented.

“I read and learned for the first time about how I was found unconscious, with my hair disheveled, long necklace wrapped around my neck, bra pulled out of my dress, dress pulled off over my shoulders and pulled up above my waist, that I was butt naked all the way down to my boots, legs spread apart, and had been penetrated by a foreign object by someone I did not recognize […]

“One more time, in public news, I learned that my ass and vagina were completely exposed outside, my breasts had been groped, fingers had been jabbed inside me along with pine needles and debris, my bare skin and head had been rubbing against the ground behind a dumpster, while an erect freshman was humping my half naked, unconscious body. But I don’t remember, so how do I prove I didn’t like it? […]

“I was not only told that I was assaulted, I was told that because I couldn’t remember, I technically could not prove it was unwanted.”

She revealed how she was questioned about her previous sexual experience and her current boyfriend, and said: “I learned what it meant to be revictimized.”

Following the news of Turner’s appeal, according to The Mercury News, Santa Clara County District Attorney Jeff Rosen said: “Brock Turner received a fair trial and was justly convicted.

“His conviction will be upheld. Nothing can ever roll back Emily Doe’s legacy of raising the world’s awareness about sexual assault.”

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Image: Stanford Department of Public Safety


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Amy Swales

Amy Swales is a freelance writer who likes to eat, drink and talk about her dog. She will continue to plunder her own life and the lives of her loved ones for material in the name of comedy, catharsis and getting pictures of her dog on the internet.

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