Larry Krasner

Lawrence Samuel Krasner (born March 30, 1961) is an American lawyer serving as the 26th District Attorney of Philadelphia.[1] Elected to the position in 2017, Krasner campaigned on a platform to reform elements of the criminal justice system, including to reduce incarceration, and took office in January 2018.

Larry Krasner
Larry Krasner, Candidate for Philadelphia District Attorney (cropped).jpg
26th District Attorney of Philadelphia
Assumed office
January 1, 2018
Preceded byKelley B. Hodge (Acting)
Personal details
Born
Lawrence Samuel Krasner

(1961-03-30) March 30, 1961 (age 59)
St. Louis, Missouri, U.S.
Political partyDemocratic
EducationUniversity of Chicago (BA)
Stanford University (JD)

During his tenure, Krasner has sought to spearhead criminal justice reform by ending bail payments for low-level offenders, reducing supervision for parolees, and seeking more lenient sentences for certain crimes.[2] Prior to his government service, Krasner had a 30-year career as a criminal defense and civil rights attorney and public defender. He aggressively pursued police misconduct.[3]

Early life and educationEdit

Lawrence Krasner was born in St. Louis in 1961.[4] His father, the son of Russian Jewish immigrants, wrote crime fiction, and his mother was an evangelical Christian minister.[5] His family moved to the Philadelphia area while he was still attending public school.[4][clarification needed] He graduated from Conestoga High School in 1979. [6]

Krasner graduated from the University of Chicago in 1983.[7] He graduated from Stanford Law School, in 1987.[4]

CareerEdit

After graduation and passing the bar, Krasner returned to Philadelphia to work for the Federal Public Defender’s Office.[4] He opened his own law firm in 1993[1] and worked as a criminal defense lawyer in Philadelphia for 30 years,[1][8] specializing in civil rights,[9] and frequently representing protestors pro bono.[8]

Krasner's representation of Black Lives Matter and Occupy Philadelphia members led many to call him an "anti-establishment" candidate during his 2017 primary campaign for the Democratic nomination.[10][11] He campaigned against existing policies that had resulted in disproportionately high numbers of minority males being jailed and proposed other reforms in criminal justice.[12] Krasner was a featured speaker at the 2017 People's Summit.[13]

Philadelphia District AttorneyEdit

ElectionEdit

Philadelphia district attorney R. Seth Williams announced in February 2017 that he would not run for reelection.[14] Williams resigned from office and pleaded guilty to federal bribery charges in June 2017; his interim replacement, Kathleen Martin, chose not to run.[15]

Shortly before the candidacy announcement, John McNesby, president of Lodge 5 of the Philadelphia Fraternal Order of Police, derided Krasner's eventually successful run as "hilarious." McNesby opposed Krasner's promise to refuse to prosecute defendants whose detainments were illegally performed so arresting officers could earn overtime pay as well as his history of suing police officers who perpetrated corruption and brutality.[16] Krasner received no major newspaper endorsements.[1] Less than three weeks before the primary, a political action committee supporting Krasner's campaign received a $1.45 million contribution from billionaire George Soros.[17]

Krasner won the May 16th Democratic primary by more than 17%, defeating former city and federal prosecutor Joe Khan, former Philadelphia Managing Director Rich Negrin, former First Assistant District Attorney Tariq El-Shabazz, former prosecutor Michael Untermeyer, former prosecutor Jack O'Neill, and former Municipal Court Judge Teresa Carr Deni.[18][19][20] City officials reported voter turnout spiked nearly 50 percent compared to 2009, which was the last contested race for district attorney of Philadelphia.[21] The primary was widely seen as a proxy election; the winner of the Democratic primary election is the presumptive victor of the general election since Philadelphia has almost seven times as many registered Democrats as registered Republicans.[12][22][23] As expected, the November general election was not competitive, with Krasner getting almost three times as many votes as his Republican opponent, former assistant district attorney Beth Grossman.[24]

TenureEdit

In his first week in office, Krasner fired 31 prosecutors from the District Attorney's Office, including both junior and career supervisory staff. Up to one-third of the homicide prosecutors in the office were dismissed. Those fired represented nearly a 10% reduction in the number of Philadelphia assistant district attorneys.[25][26]

In February 2018, Krasner announced that law enforcement would no longer pursue criminal charges against those caught with marijuana possession.[27] That same month, Krasner instructed prosecutors to stop seeking cash bail for those accused of some misdemeanors and nonviolent felonies.[28] Krasner said that it was unfair to keep people in detention simply because they could not afford bail.[28] He also announced that the DA's office had filed a lawsuit against a number of pharmaceutical companies for their role in the city's opioid epidemic.[27] Krasner instructed prosecutors to stop charging sex workers who had fewer than three convictions.[29]

In March 2018, it was reported that Krasner's staffers were working on creating a sentence review unit–the first of its kind in the country–to review past cases and sentences, and seek re-sentencing in cases when individuals were given unduly harsh punishments.[30] That same month, Krasner instructed prosecutors to reduce sentence lengths to defendants making pleas, refuse to bring certain low-level charges, and publicly explain their reasoning for pursuing expensive incarcerations to taxpayers footing the bills.[31] He said,

"Fiscal responsibility is a justice issue, and it is an urgent justice issue. A dollar spent on incarceration should be worth it. Otherwise, that dollar may be better spent on addiction treatment, on public education, on policing and on other types of activity that make us all safer."[32]

In 2018, some judges rejected the reduced sentences which Krasner's prosecutors had sought for juveniles who had previously been sentenced to life in prison.[33] In June 2018, Krasner made an unprecedented request for a comprehensive list of police officers who had lied while on duty, used excessive force, racially profiled, or violated civil rights, an unprecedented move in order to spotlight dishonest police officers and check their future courtroom testimony.[34]

In 2019, Krasner filed a motion in the Supreme Court of Pennsylvania to declare capital punishment in Pennsylvania unconstitutional. He claimed the death penalty was illegal in the state because of the ban on cruel and unusual punishment in the Pennsylvania Constitution, citing the high turnover rates of convictions by appeals, the racially biased number of sentences given to black and Hispanic defendants, and the large number of convictions overturned due to ineffective counsel.[35]

Following the fatal shooting of Philadelphia police officer James O'Connor IV, Krasner faced criticism from William McSwain, a federal prosecutor appointed by Donald Trump.[36] McSwain, U.S. Attorney for the Eastern District of Pennsylvania, blamed the shooting on a prosecutorial discretion decision by Krasner's office to drop drug charges against suspected killer Hassan Elliott. While on probation for a gun possession charge, Elliott was arrested again on January 29, 2019, for cocaine possession and was released on his own recognizance. Nearly a week later on February 6, Elliott took part in the fatal shooting of Tyrone Tyree. Krasner's office dropped drug charges after Elliott failed to appear in court, choosing to approve an arrest warrant for Tyree's murder instead.[36] On March 13, as part of a SWAT unit carrying out an arrest warrant, O'Connor was fatally shot and Elliott was charged. Prosecutor spokeswoman Jane Roh responded to criticism by stating that the office believed murder to be a more serious crime than drug possession and charged Elliott accordingly.[37] On the night of O'Connor's death, Philadelphia police officers formed a human chain at Temple University Hospital entrance to prevent Krasner from entering.[37]

In July 2020, Krasner's office charged Philadelphia SWAT officer Richard P. Nicoletti with simple assault, reckless endangerment, official oppression, and possession of an instrument of crime. Video footage taken during the George Floyd protests showed that Nicoletti pepper sprayed three kneeling protesters. He pulled down the mask of one woman before spraying her in the face, he sprayed another woman at point blank range, and sprayed a man numerous times in the face while he laid on the ground.[38]

Electoral historyEdit

Philadelphia District Attorney Democratic primary election, 2017[20]
Party Candidate Votes %
Democratic Larry Krasner 59,368 38.24
Democratic Joe Khan 31,480 20.28
Democratic Rich Negrin 22,048 14.20
Democratic Tariq Karim El-Shabazz 18,040 11.62
Democratic Michael W. Untermeyer 12,709 8.19
Democratic John O'Neill 9,246 5.96
Democratic Teresa Carr Deni 2,335 1.5
Democratic Write-ins 20 0.01
Philadelphia District Attorney general election, 2017[39]
Party Candidate Votes %
Democratic Larry Krasner 148,522 74.67
Republican Beth Grossman 50,330 25.3
Write-ins Write-in 53 0.03

See alsoEdit

ReferencesEdit

  1. ^ a b c d "Larry Krasner's Campaign to End Mass Incarceration". The New Yorker. Retrieved October 24, 2018.
  2. ^ Melamed, Samantha. "Philly DA Larry Krasner: We took on mass incarceration. Now we're addressing mass supervision". Retrieved April 7, 2019.
  3. ^ Feuer, Alan (June 17, 2017). "He Sued Police 75 Times. Democrats Want Him as Philadelphia's Top Prosecutor". The New York Times. ISSN 0362-4331. Retrieved April 7, 2019.
  4. ^ a b c d "Meet Larry". Larry Krasner for Philadelphia District Attorney. Retrieved May 17, 2017.
  5. ^ Terruso, Julia (May 12, 2017). "Civil rights attorney Larry Krasner: DA's Office is 'off the rails'". The Philadelphia Inquirer. Retrieved May 20, 2017.
  6. ^ "Conestoga High School Yearbook".
  7. ^ Class Notes: Larry Krasner, University of Chicago Magazine, Volume 91, Number 4, April 1999.
  8. ^ a b Speri, Alice. "Meet Philadelphia's Progressive Candidate for DA: An Interview With Larry Krasner". The Intercept. Retrieved May 17, 2017.
  9. ^ "Civil rights attorney Larry Krasner: DA's Office is 'off the rails'". Retrieved May 17, 2017.
  10. ^ "2017 Pennsylvania Primary Election Roundup: Who won and lost". Retrieved May 17, 2017.
  11. ^ "This wasn't just a primary victory. This was a revolution". Retrieved May 17, 2017.
  12. ^ a b "Philadelphia just set the national example in the fight against mass incarceration". Retrieved May 17, 2017.
  13. ^ Weigel, David. "Other lessons from the People's Summit". The Washington Post. Retrieved June 14, 2017.
  14. ^ Greg Salisbury, Philly DA Seth Williams won't run for re-election, City & State (February 10, 2017).
  15. ^ Jon Hurdle, Philadelphia District Attorney Pleads Guilty to Bribery and Resigns, New York Times (June 29, 2017).
  16. ^ Abraham Gutman, The Two Big Reasons the Police Union Wants Larry Krasner to Lose, Philadelphia Magazine (November 3, 2017)
  17. ^ Brennan, Chris (May 5, 2017). "$1.45 million Soros investment in Philly DA's race draws heat for Krasner". Philadelphia Inquirer. Retrieved January 11, 2020.
  18. ^ Allyn, Bobby. "Enthusiastic Democrats Lead Anti-Establishment DA Candidate To Victory". NPR.org. Retrieved May 17, 2017.
  19. ^ Chris Brennan & Julia Terruso, Krasner declared winner of Democratic primary for DA in Philly, Philadelphia Inquirer (May 17, 2017).
  20. ^ a b 2017 PRIMARY DISTRICT ATTORNEY-DEM, Office of the Philadelphia City Commissioners.
  21. ^ Dent, Mark. "Major increase in Philly voter turnout propels Larry Krasner to victory". Billy Penn. Retrieved June 30, 2017.
  22. ^ "Republicans are officially the least-registered political party in Philadelphia". September 20, 2017. Retrieved March 22, 2018.
  23. ^ "In Philly, Independents and Third-Party Voters Now Outnumber Republicans". September 15, 2017. Retrieved March 22, 2018.
  24. ^ Chris Brennan & Aubrey Whelan, Larry Krasner wins race for Philly DA, Philadelphia Inquirer (November 7, 2017).
  25. ^ Chris Palmer, Julie Shaw & Mensah M. Dean, Krasner dismisses 31 from Philly DA's Office in dramatic first-week shakeup, Philadelphia Inquirer (January 5, 2018).
  26. ^ Ryan Briggs & Max Marin, Leaked list shows Krasner firings targeted top staff, "Porngate" prosecutors, Philadelphia Weekly (January 5, 2017).
  27. ^ a b "Larry Krasner Sues Big Pharma, Drops All Marijuana Possession Charges". Philadelphia Magazine. February 16, 2018. Retrieved February 17, 2018.
  28. ^ a b "Philly DA Larry Krasner won't seek cash bail in certain crimes". Philly.com. Retrieved March 21, 2018.
  29. ^ King, Shaun (March 20, 2018). "Philadelphia DA Larry Krasner Promised a Criminal Justice Revolution. He's Exceeding Expectations". The Intercept. Retrieved March 23, 2018.
  30. ^ "The DAs Who Want to Set the Guilty Free". The Marshall Project. Retrieved March 21, 2018.
  31. ^ "In latest edict, Philly DA Larry Krasner tells prosecutors to seek lighter sentences, estimate costs of incarceration". Philly.com. Retrieved April 12, 2018.
  32. ^ "Philly DA wants prison costs included as judge calculates offender's debt to society". whyy.org. Retrieved April 12, 2018.
  33. ^ "Philly judges block DA Krasner's deals for juvenile lifers". Philly.com. Retrieved April 9, 2018.
  34. ^ "Philly DA Larry Krasner seeking to develop comprehensive list of tainted cops". Philly.com. Retrieved June 6, 2018.
  35. ^ "Larry Krasner says that Pennsylvania death penalty is unconstitutional". The Intercept. July 15, 2019. Retrieved September 17, 2019.
  36. ^ a b Shaw, Julie; Palmer, Chris (March 16, 2020). "U.S. Attorney William McSwain slams DA Larry Krasner over fatal shooting of Cpl. James O'Connor IV". Philadelphia Inquirer. Retrieved March 23, 2020.
  37. ^ a b Palmer, Chris; Shaw, Julie; Dean, Mensah M. (March 14, 2020). "Philly SWAT officer, 46, is fatally shot while trying to serve a warrant in Frankford". Philadelphia Inquirer. Retrieved March 23, 2020.
  38. ^ Rushing, Chris Palmer, Ellie (2020). "Philly SWAT officer seen pepper spraying kneeling protesters on 676 turns himself in, to be charged". www.inquirer.com. Retrieved July 22, 2020.
  39. ^ November 7, 2017 Municipal General & Special Election, Philadelphia County.

Further readingEdit