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A “Culture of Lawlessness” in D.A. Offices

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A “Culture of Lawlessness” in D.A. Offices

Progressive prosecutors around the country have failed to pursue justice for the public. September 25, 2020
Politics and law
Public safety

U.S. Attorney William McSwain of the Eastern District of Pennsylvania blames Philadelphia District Attorney Larry Krasner for the rise in violence in the City of Brotherly Love. Krasner’s policies, McSwain announced, “create a culture of lawlessness; they leave criminals emboldened; and they have inevitable consequences.” Indeed, since Krasner took office in 2018, homicides are up 49 percent and shootings have climbed by 59 percent. If the trend holds, Philadelphia will tally more than 450 homicides in 2020—the highest count in nearly 30 years.

Crime is spiking precisely because Krasner isn’t holding serious offenders accountable. An analysis by my group, the Law Enforcement Legal Defense Fund, found that Krasner is failing to prosecute felony offenses. Compared with his predecessor’s average conviction rates, Krasner either dropped or lost 26 percent more of all felony cases. More robbery cases (up 14 percent) and auto theft cases (up 37 percent) were dropped or lost. In drug sales (not possession) cases, Krasner dismisses or loses 55 percent of cases, compared with the 34 percent rate of his predecessor.

In his first two years in office, Krasner dropped or lost 47 percent of all illegal firearms cases—a 42 percent higher rate than the last district attorney, Seth Williams. Krasner won convictions in 21 percent fewer cases. Studies have clearly shown that gun offenders are likely to go on to commit more violent crime. This failure to keep criminals locked up had tragic consequences earlier this year when repeat offender Hassan Elliot (earlier jailed for felony illegal gun possession) killed Philadelphia police corporal James O’Connor.

On taking office, Krasner had released Elliot, who went on to violate parole when police caught him trying to sell cocaine. That same day, Elliot killed a man. Months later, Elliot murdered O’Connor, who was trying to apprehend him.

Krasner is not alone in presiding over rising crime while dropping or losing felony cases at a record rate. In a survey of six jurisdictions where progressive district attorneys serve, every city or county logged a lower overall felony-conviction rate, as well as a lower conviction rate for violent or serious crimes, than did their predecessors. On average, the profiled prosecutors dropped 20 percent more felony cases. Crime has risen dramatically.

In Baltimore, America’s big-city murder capital, homicides have increased 65 percent under progressive prosecutor Marilyn Mosby. Our report shows that Mosby drops or loses many more felony cases than her immediate predecessor, who enjoyed a lower crime and murder rate. A felony defendant is 23 percent less likely to be convicted under Mosby. Felons in possession of a firearm are 46 percent less likely to be convicted. Even when they are convicted, they serve less prison time than before.

Independent analyses of other cities bear out our findings. Progressive prosecutor Kimberly Gardner in St. Louis, who infamously charged a couple who brandished firearms at protesters threatening to invade their home, loses at trial or drops cases at an astounding rate. Trial conviction rates fell to approximately 53 percent under Gardner, from 72 percent before her arrival. Gardner is pressing charges in only 23 percent of cases filed by police. The rest remain “pending.”

Similarly, a Chicago Tribune investigation confirmed our earlier findings that Cook County State’s Attorney Kim Foxx dismissed 35 percent more felony cases than her predecessor and dropped nearly 40 percent of all felony cases 2019. These offenses include serious and violent crimes like homicides, sex crimes, assaults by gun, and attacks on police officers. Sadly, in the Windy City, Jussie Smollett isn’t the only one getting away with crime. Homicides and shootings are up 50 percent over last year as criminals go free.

The media tout many of these progressive prosecutors as righteous crusaders for justice—but in fact, they don’t deliver justice to the public or to crime victims. Elected prosecutors like Krasner have a duty to secure public safety. As the results in cities across the U.S. show, failing to prosecute dangerous and violent offenders only begets more crime and erodes trust in the justice system.

Photo by Larry French/Getty Images for BET Networks

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