An argument to overturn the conviction of a former Stanford University swimmer who was found guilty of sexually assaulting an intoxicated woman is in the hands of a California appeals court, which must consider whether "sexual outercourse" made a difference in the case.
An attorney for Brock Turner said before a three-judge panel on Tuesday that in 2015, the then 19-year-old college freshman had his clothes on when he was discovered with the victim outside of a fraternity party near Stanford.
When Turner was found on top of the woman, who was also unconscious and half-naked, he was fully clothed and did not have his genitals exposed. Attorney Eric Multhaup argued that Turner was engaged in "sexual outercourse" and did not demonstrate that he intended to rape the victim, according to NBC Bay Area.
Multhaup described "outercourse" as an activity that does not involve vaginal sex and as a "version of safe sex."
Turner's case received national attention after he was sentenced to six months in jail — blasted by critics as being too lenient.
During his trial, the defense used Turner's alcohol consumption to account for his behavior on the night of the assault.
A jury, however, found him guilty of assault with intent to commit rape, sexual penetration of an intoxicated person with a foreign object and sexual penetration of an unconscious person with a foreign object.
Turner was released in September 2016, about three months shy of the full sentence and was ordered to register as a sex offender for life. A successful appeal could prevent Turner, who lives in Ohio, from having to be registered.
California's 6th District Court of Appeal has 90 days to issue a ruling, although the judges on Tuesday appeared to be skeptical of the defense's arguments, The Associated Press reported.
"I absolutely don't understand what you are talking about," Justice Franklin Elia told Multhaup, adding that the law "requires the jury verdict to be honored."
Assistant Attorney General Alisha Carlile argued that Multhaup had presented a "far-fetched version of events" that didn't support the facts of the case.
The 6th District has a reputation of upholding guilty verdicts in cases, which could make it harder for Turner's defense team to win on appeal, said legal analyst and defense attorney Dean Johnson.
He added that the defense was arguing that because Turner was found with his clothes on, he shouldn't have been found guilty of assault with intent to commit rape because there was a lack of evidence that he would have actually raped the woman.
"Intent is something that can be determined by surrounding circumstances," Johnson said. "It's like if you look across the street and see your neighbor pull out a lawn mower and start it up, you can presume his intent is to mow the lawn."
Multhaup argued Tuesday that "the record lacks sufficient evidence to support the three convictions in this case."
The case has had a lasting impact and reignited conversations about sexual assault on college campuses.
Last month, the judge who initially sentenced Turner was recalled by Santa Clara County voters after a campaign to unseat him raised more than $2 million in nationwide contributions.