Kianerci points to one part of the trial that troubles her. Kim Fromme, a clinical psychology professor at the University of Texas at Austin, is an expert witness who testified on behalf of Turner. Fromme conducted research that she believes shows intoxicated people aren’t consent-impaired but memory impaired. It was an unfortunate reminder of the obstacles victims face when they attempt to bring their attackers to justice. “She’s an educator,” Kianerci says of Fromme. “She was a professor at a university that has young adults who are greatly affected by these types of cases.”
A daughter of Iranian immigrants (her first name, Alaleh, means “tulip” in Farsi), Kianerci grew up in Santa Cruz. Her parents own a restaurant in San Jose, where she managed the bar her first semester at SCU law. She has a skill for connecting with people and witnesses.
“It made it easier to stay here as late as I could to make sure that when I cross-examined [Fromme], it really poked holes in her testimony,” Kianerci says. “If I wasn’t able to do that, the outcome could’ve been different.”
Bringing Real Change
As for Turner’s light sentence, Kianerci doesn’t blame the judge exclusively. He was acting within the law. “There are many judges in the state of California that would’ve done the same thing,” she says.
Kianerci and Santa Clara District Attorney Jeff Rosen used public support as an opportunity to make long-term change. Two weeks after the trial, they testified in a legislative hearing for California AB-2888, a bill that closed a loophole allowing perpetrators who assaulted unconscious victims to avoid jail time. The bill passed unanimously. Gov. Jerry Brown ’59 issued a signing statement along with the law, and that letter explaining the rationale behind the law now hangs in Kianerci’s office. Legislation that makes jail time mandatory can be problematic, as it often disproportionately affects people of color. In fact, in his letter, Brown mentions his general opposition to mandatory minimum sentences. Kianerci says that isn’t the case here.
“I believe this is going to bring parity in the special treatment non-minorities [get],” Kianerci says. She likens the bill to what Mothers Against Drunk Driving has done for DUI laws. “Hopefully this case will have the same impact.”
Matt Morgan is assistant editor of Santa Clara Magazine.