The media paid attention when a California judge sentenced a convicted sex offender to just six months in jail last week after prosecutors asked for years in state prison.
But the Internet had a question for the media: Where is the mugshot of former Stanford student Brock Turner? Instead of a booking photo, stories about his conviction and sentencing were illustrated with a smiling photo of Turner posing in a suit for his yearbook.
Turner’s mugshot, it seemed, wasn’t anywhere, as noted by Inquisitr and Crimefeed. It did not appear to be on the most common photo wire services, which make such images widely available for news outlets. Local law enforcement hadn’t posted it in a public format.
By Monday afternoon, the Santa Clara County Sheriff’s Office released a recent booking photo to several news organizations, including The Washington Post.
Later, officials also released the first booking photo taken of Turner shortly after his arrest in January 2015:
Confusion over which agency was responsible for the release of the recent booking photo contributed to the delay, the Cut reported. The Stanford Department of Public Safety initially arrested Turner. The case was then handled by the Santa Clara County Sheriff’s Office. Representatives for both agencies told the Cut and others that only the other agency could release the photo.
A sheriff’s spokesman said that, to his knowledge, the agency didn’t receive any requests before Monday to release the recent booking photo. A spokesman for the Stanford Department of Public Safety did not respond to an inquiry from The Post.
Turner, 20, was sentenced to six months in jail for three felony counts by Santa Clara County Superior Court Judge Aaron Persky, far less than the six years in state prison that prosecutors requested. Turner was convicted in March of 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.
The judge said he kept his jail time light because years in jail would have had a “severe impact” on Turner — the smiling, suited boy seen in the yearbook photo. The wholesome image was jarring against another portrayal of Turner, the one his victim told the court at his sentencing hearing. On Monday, CNN’s Ashleigh Banfield read it on the air, in full. On Twitter, more and more people began asking the media to use the mugshot of an adult convicted of serious felonies rather than a college yearbook portrait.
The absence of Turner’s booking photos became an issue in the debate about how the story of the sexual assault he committed was told.
Release Brock Allen Turner's mugshot
— Grace Spelman (@GraceSpelman) June 4, 2016
Why hasn't any media used Brock Allen Turner's mugshot, like with non-athlete offenders? Why is only his yearbook photo being circulated?
— (((Julie DiCaro))) (@JulieDiCaro) June 6, 2016
I looked for a mugshot of Brock Allen Turner yesterday. No luck. Found courtroom shots, but none in first 50+ Google hits.
— Angus Johnston (@studentactivism) June 5, 2016
Can't believe this trash gets the honor of a nice headshot.
— Fiona Tay (@MsFionaTay) June 4, 2016
Mugshots of those accused or convicted of a crime have long been an integral part of how news organizations cover those stories.
Arresting agencies throughout the country differ on how they disseminate such images. Some departments will post news releases with mugshots on their Facebook pages, or make them easily accessible via inmate searches, or require news organizations to request the images individually.
“The Sheriff’s Office will release booking photos of arrests made by the Sheriff’s Office that do not jeopardize the successful investigation and prosecution of the individual,” according to the sheriff’s office. “Booking photos of people arrested by other law enforcement agencies will not be released.”
This post, originally published June 6, has been updated to include both available booking photos of Turner.