The media payed attention when a California judge sentenced a committed sex offender to just six months of jail time last week after prosecutors asked for years in state prison.

But the Internet had a question for the media: where is the mugshot of 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 on the Internet, as noted by Inquisitr and Crimefeed. It did not appear to be on the most common photo wire services, which makes such images widely available for news outlets. Local law enforcement hadn't posted it in a public format.


Today, the Santa Clara Sheriff's Office released Turner's booking photo to several news organisations after calls for its release.

Confusion over which agency's responsibility it was to release the photo appeared to be behind its absence, the Cut reported. The Stanford Department of Public Safety initially arrested Turner. The case was then handled by the Santa Clara County Sheriff's Department. Spokespeople for both agencies told the Cut and others that only the other agency could release the photo.

Turner, 20, was sentenced to six months in jail for three counts by Santa Clara County Superior Court Judge Aaron Persky, far less than the six years in state prison that prosecutors had 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.

Persky's light sentence prompted a petition that now has more than 27,000 signatures accusing the judge of a bias in favour of student athletes and advocating for his recall.

The judge who sentenced Turner said he kept his jail time light because years in jail would have a "severe impact" on him, the smiling, suited boy seen in the yearbook photo. But the photo was jarring against another picture of Turner, the one his victim told the court at his sentencing hearing. That statement was published in full on Buzzfeed. Today 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 photo became an issue in the debate over how the story of the sexual assault he committed was told.

Mugshots of those accused or convicted of a crime have long been an integral part of how news organisations cover those stories.

Arresting agencies throughout the country differ on how they disseminate such images. Some departments will post news released with mugshots on their Facebook pages, or make them easily accessible via inmate searches, or require news organisations to request the images individually.

"The Sheriff's Office will release booking photos of arrests made by the Sheriff's Office that do not jeopardise 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."