Book review: Know My Name

I read Emily Doe’s book “Know My Name.” She is the victim in the Brock Turner case. I have many thoughts.

First, much of what she said about the system applies with equal force to our clients. She really captured how we as attorneys can be so entrenched in the system that we forget that our clients have no idea what is going on or why. So, for example, if we continue to the case or if the DA continues the case, we fail to appreciate what a huge effect this will have on our clients or to consider how stressful the entire process is. We just write the new date on a slip and send them on their way. We should be sensitive to the fact that court dates completely disrupt their lives–not just in having to take off work or find child care–but also in mentally preparing for a stressful appearance in a case that is life altering for them.

What I thought she fell short of doing was stepping back and looking at the situation with perspective. She was so focused on the injustice that she made blanket statements criticizing the system without thinking critically about what the alternative would be. A world where we do not have due process. A world where there are no criminal defense attorneys for people accused of horrendous crimes. A world where innocent people are incarcerated for horrible crimes so that we can avoid re-traumatizing rape victims who were, in fact raped. And, a world where guilty people are convicted without the benefit of ensuring the process went fairly. If someone thinks he has been railroaded, even if he is good for the crime, we cannot expect that this person will reform.

Also, she never said what prison sentence she thought was just for Turner, only that 6 months was wrong and the probation officer twisted her words. She said she wanted treatment for Turner, but did not ask whether the treatment she envisioned would even be available if he was sent to prison, or express any insight or indignation into the fact that it would not be available at Santa Clara County Jail. She expressed outrage that he could afford an attorney and that he benefited from his privilege, but did not explain why someone should not be able to hire an attorney if he can. Would she have been less offended if he had a public defender and why does it matter? Why is the answer to having inequities in sentencing based on privilege to have harsher sentences for the privileged as opposed to lesser sentences for everyone, which are focused on restoration and rehabilitation?

I thought it was weird that the professor who was so vocal in this case (Daubert) essentially outed her as a rape victim by suspecting it was her and then contacting her to confirm. She did not take issue with this so I’m not sure it’s right for me to be offended on her behalf, but how did that professor know she did not take issue with this? What if anyone else had done this? It seemed intrusive, unethical, and hypocritical to me.

I would neither recommend nor not recommend the book. I skimmed through some of it and was captivated by other parts. I think it could have been more powerful if she looked more critically at the problems with our system, including how problematic it is to recall a judge just because you feel one ruling was unjust.

Published by Jenny Brandt

About Me: sociology, african american studies, chicano/a studies, critical race studies, and criminal law scholar. public school kid from kindergarten-J.D. Former public defender. I am a post-conviction guru. Appeals. Sentencing. Withdraw Pleas. Habeas. Published author in the Criminal Law Bulletin and California Defender. "I do it for the joy it brings, because I'm a joyful girl, because the world owes me nothing, and we owe each other the world." Why I started JJC: My PD buddy suggested it. What and who JJC is inspired by: public defenders I have worked for, with, and next to. my clients who have battled things no one should and are still here. innocence and guilt and everything in between. My coworkers, who fight just as hard as the PDs I love, for many of the same reasons. My husband who was once voted "most Christ like" (every Jewish girl's dream). My Corgi who loves everyone. The constitution. Tabloids. My mom, for giving me a voice. My dad, for teaching me what to say. My brother, for teaching me how to say it.

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