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Story highlights

The case drew national attention for the three-month sentence imposed on Turner

The assault occurred in January 2015 at Stanford University

(CNN) —  

The former Stanford University swimmer who was convicted last year of sexually assaulting an unconscious woman – and spent only three months in jail – is appealing his convictions and requesting a new trial.

Lawyers for Brock Turner filed an appeal Friday with California’s 6th District Court of Appeal, claiming their client was denied due process during his 2016 trial and calling it “fundamentally unfair.”

Turner was charged after two Stanford graduate students witnessed the assault taking place in January 2015 while they were riding bicycles near Stanford. He was 19 at the time.

A jury in Santa Clara County found Turner guilty in March 2016 on three felony counts: assault with intent to commit rape of an intoxicated or unconscious person, penetration of an intoxicated person and penetration of an unconscious person.

Key to Turner’s request for a new trial is a statement the prosecutor repeatedly made during trial, saying the assault occurred “behind the dumpster.”

The assault, Turner’s lawyers argue, did not occur “behind the dumpster.” Indeed, the victim was found in a “completely open setting,” the appeal states, adding that the implication that the crime occurred “behind the dumpster” prejudiced the jury against Turner.

That characterization of the crime, “implied an intent on the appellant’s part to shield and sequester his activities” and “implied moral depravity, callousness and culpability on the appellant’s part because of the inherent connotations of filth, garbage, detritus and criminal activity frequently associated with dumpsters,” the document states.

The appeal also claims Turner was denied a fair trial because witnesses who would testify to his good character were excluded by the court. It also claims the prosecution failed “to present constitutionally sufficient evidence” to support the three counts of conviction.

Turner’s lawyer, Eric Multhaup, said he had nothing to add about “the unfairness of the conviction” beyond the court filing.

“What we are saying is that what happened is not a crime,” John Tompkins, Turner’s legal adviser, told KNTV. “It happened, but it was not anywhere close to a crime.”

Turner’s trial was thrown into the national spotlight after the victim’s wrenching impact statement went viral, then again when Superior Court Judge Aaron Persky gave Turner to a six-month jail sentence, prompting an outcry from critics who said the punishment was too lenient. As a result of the backlash, Persky – at his own request – no longer hears criminal cases.

Turner was released for good behavior after serving just half the sentence imposed. As part of his sentence, Turner must register for life as a sex offender.

CNN’s Shawn Nottingham contributed to this report