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Commission Admonishes Calif. Judge for Comments That Rape Victim 'Didn't Put Up a Fight'

Commission Admonishes Calif. Judge for Comments That Rape Victim 'Didn't Put Up a Fight'

December 17, 2012 — The California Commission on Judicial Performance on Thursday voted unanimously to publicly admonish a veteran Southern California judge who said that a rape was only "technical" because "although [the victim] wasn't necessarily willing, she didn't put up a fight," the Los Angeles Times reports.

At a 2008 sentencing hearing, Superior Court Judge Derek Johnson denied a prosecutor's request to impose a 16-year prison term on Metin Gurel, who had been convicted of rape, forcible oral copulation, domestic battery, stalking and making threats against his former girlfriend. Johnson opted to issue a six-year sentence (Goffard, Los Angeles Times, 12/14).

According to court documents released on Thursday, Johnson said at the sentencing, "I'm not a gynecologist, but I can tell you something: If someone doesn't want to have sexual intercourse, the body shuts down. The body will not permit that to happen unless a lot of damage is inflicted, and we heard nothing about that in this case" (AP/Sacramento Bee, 12/13).

The judge added the rape was not "a real, live criminal case." He continued, "To treat this case like the rape cases that we all hear about is an insult to victims of rape" and "trivializes a rape."

Commission's Response

The commission said Johnson's remarks conflicted with California law, which does not require proof that a rape victim tried to resist an attack (Goffard/Marble, "L.A. Now," Los Angeles Times, 12/13).

"In the commission's view, the judge's remarks reflected outdated, biased and insensitive views about sexual assault victims who do not 'put up a fight.' Such comments cannot help but diminish public confidence and trust in the impartiality of the judiciary," Commission Chair Lawrence Simi wrote (AP/Sacramento Bee, 12/13). He added, "Johnson conceded his comments were inappropriate and apologized."

Paul Meyer, Johnson's attorney, said neither he nor Johnson -- who remains on the bench -- would comment on the remarks ("L.A. Now," Los Angeles Times, 12/13).