Brock Turner – When Should a Defendant Choose Not to Appeal a Conviction?

Brock Turner could easily have been sent to prison for years following his conviction for sexually assaulting an unconscious woman on the campus of Stanford University. Instead, a judge sentenced him to six months, and he served only half that time.

Turner could have served his remaining probation and registered as a sex offender, but he is instead appealing his conviction and asking for a new trial.

There are times when you should file an appeal or post-conviction relief action (PCR), but then there are times when you should probably quit while you are ahead…

A Light Sentence According to Public Opinion

Turner was convicted of three rape charges based on his actions at a fraternity party in 2015. Witnesses testified that they saw Turner lying on top of an unconscious, half-dressed woman. The convictions included assault with intent to rape an intoxicated woman and sexually penetrating an unconscious person with a foreign object.

When Santa Clara County Superior Court Judge Aaron Persky handed down the light sentence, the Commission on Judicial Performance was overwhelmed with complaints. Though the commission cleared Persky of misconduct, the backlash was severe, and it’s hard to imagine another judge doing something similar.

That’s why it seems unfathomable that Turner is asking for a new trial. If the California Sixth District Court of Appeal grants Turner’s request for a new trial, he will almost certainly be convicted again.

“His conviction will be upheld,” said Santa Clara County District Attorney Jeff Rosen. “Nothing can ever roll back Emily Does’ legacy of raising the world’s awareness about sexual assault.”

On appeal, Turner is arguing that he did not receive a fair trial because the prosecutor told jurors the assault happened behind a trash bin, and Turner argues that it happened near the bin. Saying it happened behind the bin was prejudicial and makes it look like Turner was trying to hide his actions, he says.

Other errors Turner is arguing on appeal include the Court’s failure to allow the jurors to consider lesser included offenses and the Court’s failure to exclude testimony by character witnesses.

Criminal Appeals and Post-Conviction Relief in South Carolina

Filing an appeal or a post-conviction relief action makes sense when there is a chance of a different – and better – outcome for the defendant.

In Brock Turner’s case, it is hard to imagine that a new jury will reach a different conclusion, and, after all the outrage directed at Judge Persky for the light sentence, it’s hard to imagine a different judge showing similar mercy. On the other hand, to Brock Turner, it may be worth the risks and the possibility of prison time to continue his fight to stay off the sex offender registry. That’s a choice that ultimately has to be made by the client, not the attorney.

The Thompson Defense Firm handles criminal appeals in SC and post-conviction relief cases in SC. One of the first decisions that our client must make is whether or not to go forward with their case. Before filing an appeal or PCR, you have to ask:

  • If I win and the conviction is reversed, can I win the trial? In most cases, when you win an appeal or PCR in SC, your case is not dismissed – what you have won is a new trial, starting from square one.
  • If I win the appeal and lose the second trial, will the sentence be harsher than it was the first time?
  • Do I have anything to lose? For example, if you’ve been convicted of burglary first degree and sentenced to life in prison, the worst has already happened and you have nothing left to lose…

We only accept criminal defense cases in the Columbia, Lexington, Conway, and Myrtle Beach SC areas, which includes SC criminal appeals and post-conviction relief actions (PCR).  Call at 843-444-6122 or fill out our online contact form if you have questions or to set up a free initial consultation.



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