This is a story about Philadelphia that has to do with the city’s D.A., who doesn’t seem to care for the victims of crime.
The other day, Larry Krasner had a meeting with Eagles safety Malcolm Jenkins, who had just announced that an organization he co-founded, the Players Coalition, along with the Eagles Social Justice Fund, were contributing $50,000 in bail so that nine people could spend the Thanksgiving holiday at home with their families. Despite being the chief prosecutor of Philadelphia, Krasner has been quite vocal in his desire to end cash bail and reduce the prison population. He’s been profiled nationally, and praised by progressives, given a big social justice hug by criminal justice reformers. So there was obviously a lot of love at that table.
I wondered about the people who were being released to their loved ones. I wanted to know if any of these criminal defendants had serious charges filed against them, charges that involved violence, weapons or felony drug offenses, but they were only described as “nine Philadelphians.” Nine Philadelphians charged with crimes, to be more precise.
Well, I hope they enjoyed their turkey and fixins, and I truly hope that their crimes did not involve creating empty spaces at the Thanksgiving tables of other families, chairs not filled because of loved ones in the hospital, in rehab or, much less likely but not inconceivable, in graves.
Krasner has shown a great deal of sympathy and concern for criminal defendants, which is understandable since he spent most of his life representing them. He campaigned on revolutionizing a system that he and the people who voted for him (but by no means all Philadelphians) consider racist, biased and unjust. And with each passing week, something else pops up to remind me how one man’s idea of justice is another mother’s, father’s, sister’s, brother’s, or spouse’s idea of injustice.
In the movie “West Side Story,” there is a scene on the playground where the Jets, talking to Officer Krupke, complain that they’re “depraved” because they’re “deprived.” It’s the typical mantra of the criminal who, faced with a reckoning, blames everyone but the man in the mirror. Punishment, he argues, is unfair because he’s not responsible for his actions. Poverty, neglect, racism, mental illness, drug addiction and all of the other factors that create a toxic environment are the true reason for his fall from grace.
I don’t buy that. My view is more Old Testament than the Beatitudes. I understand that some people disagree, and feel that we need a more holistic approach to crime and punishment, which to them means getting rid of the punishment prong and focusing on rehabilitation. Krasner is steeped in that philosophy, and he’s tried to turn Philadelphia’s D.A.’s office into Kumbaya Central, where we can all hold hands and ignore that a prosecutor is supposed to prosecute, not act as proxy for the defense or as a voice for the accused. He or she is supposed to be that point of power in a system that often leaves victims without it, and keep open the lines of communication with them and with their often grieving families. This D.A. doesn’t get it.
There were people missing at that table shared by Krasner and Jenkins. The mother and father of Sean Schellenger, the parents of the real estate executive stabbed to death by Michael White, should have been there. The deli store owner whose hip was shattered by an AK-47 (and whose assailant could be out of jail in three years) should have been there (in a wheelchair). The family of Sgt. Robert Wilson, the hero cop murdered in the line of duty, should have been there.
Krasner should be at least as concerned about them as he is about the accused.
Maybe next time he invites people to his table, he might put out a few more chairs. He can borrow some from Katayoun.
Copyright 2018 Christine Flowers. Flowers is an attorney and a columnist for the Philadelphia Daily News, and can be reached at [email protected]