Judge Derek Johnson Admonished for 2008 Rape Comments
Dumb comments about rape have been hot news this year.
Two of the biggest news stories leading up to the November elections involved U.S. Senate candidates Todd Akin and Richard Mourdock making ill-informed, ill-advised statements about rape. Both men lost their elections, NBCNews reports.
Thursday, another dumb rape comment began making the rounds on the Internet. This one was from Orange County Superior Court Judge Derek Johnson. But he actually made the statement four years ago.
The California Commission on Judicial Performance publicly admonished Judge Johnson this week for statements he made in 2008 while sentencing Metin Riza Gurel. Judge Johnson decided to sentence Gurel to 6 years -- instead of the 16 years that the prosecutor requested -- explaining:
I spent my last year and half in the D.A.'s office in the sexual assault unit. I know something about sexual assault ... I've seen women who have been ravaged and savaged whose vagina was shredded by the rape. 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 in inflicted, and we heard nothing about that in this case ... That tells me that the victim in this case, although she wasn't necessarily willing, she didn't put up a fight.
Yes, Judge Johnson gave the defendant a lighter sentence because the rape wasn't rape-y enough to warrant an additional 10 years in prison. According to Judge Johnson, Gurel's charges formed a technical case instead of a "real live criminal case" because Gurel, at one time, had a consensual sexual relationship with the victim.
The Commission concluded that Judge Johnson's comments -- which it says it only learned about in May 2012 -- violated Canon 2A of the California Code of Judicial Ethics. Canon 2A requires a judge "to perform judicial duties without bias or prejudice" and bars a judge from engaging in speech that would reasonably be perceived as bias or prejudice while performing judicial duties.
According to the admonishment, Judge Johnson's comments suggested that he was not impartial towards sexual assault victims "who don't put up a fight" and he improperly relied on his own "expert" opinion instead of the evidence before the court.
Judge Johnson's statements were offensive and improper and they should have been reported to the Commission years ago. Consider how many people were in the courtroom during Johnson's little rant. Why didn't anyone instigate proceedings with the Commission earlier? (Perhaps before he began his current term in 2009?)
According to the Commission's website, anyone may file a complaint against a judge. Instructions on how to file a complaint -- including grounds for a complaint -- are available on the Commission's website. If you appear before a California Superior Court judge who makes a biased or prejudicial comment, or improperly relies on outside evidence, do everyone a favor and report it to the Commission.
- Derek G. Johnson Public Admonishment (California Commission on Judicial Performance)
- Attorney Can Demand County Litigation Bills for Her Colleagues (FindLaw's California Case Law Blog)
- California Adopts Judicial Ethics Changes (FindLaw's California Case Law Blog)