By Moni Jones
After winning the primary race on Tuesday by a large margin, District Attorney Larry Krasner has a lot on his plate. From fighting for justice for victims to exonerating the wrongly convicted, he realizes there is a lot to be done in the District Attorney Office’s Conviction Integrity Unit.
The day after his primary race victory, Krasner testified before City Council for a budget hearing. He isn’t missing a beat.
To date, Krasner has exonerated 20 persons since 2018 who were wrongly convicted and served decades in prison for crimes they did not commit.
We read stories about police officers obstructing or breaking the law to intentionally incarcerate innocent citizens — but what happens when prosecutors intentionally withhold evidence to win a case?
Will the District Attorney’s office hold prosecutors accountable for criminal conduct in a case?
“The answer is yes,” said Krasner.
Krasner explains generally that there are reasons why we don’t hear about prosecutors being prosecuted.
“Obviously their conduct has to be a crime, but a lot of people would do things that are wrong, that aren’t necessarily crimes — including sometimes pretty serious things,” said Krasner. “But if we determine that a police officer or prosecutor has committed a crime, we are committed to making sure that they are held accountable in the appropriate way.”
Krasner is upfront about the difficulty of holding a prosecutor liable or pressing charges against them for misconduct in handling a case.
“I mean, the truth is, it’s very hard to sue them. It’s very hard to disbar them, and it is very, very hard to prosecute them criminally,” said Krasner.“But we have to have a system where no group of people can get away with murder, no group of people can get away with kidnapping. You take an innocent person, you know what you’re doing. You stick them in jail for 25 years. That’s nothing but a kidnapping on paper, and we can’t allow that.”
What are the barriers to prosecuting a prosecutor?
“Well, there are several,” said Krasner, referring to the barriers that make it difficult to hold prosecutors accountable for misconduct in their cases.“The main one is that usually you have to prove their intent. You have to show what their mental state was.”
“For example, if they [prosecutor] received 15 witness statements, and only turned over three to the other side — you’re going to have to show that they had a good understanding that they were doing this against the person who was innocent — and that by doing so, they were trying to make sure that the person was convicted,” he said.
When discussing why there was international interest in the outcome of the Philadelphia District Attorney’s race, it’s no mystery to Krasner, who has spent the majority of his career representing individuals in civil rights cases.
In addition, internationally renowned civil rights leader Shaun King endorsed Krasner through his Real Justice PAC organization that he co-founded with fellow activists to support local prosecutor races around the country.
King provided mobilizing support on social media and in person in Philadelphia canvassing neighborhoods with local activists to support the incumbent District Attorney.
“It’s very clear that people want criminal justice reform. That’s why in just 10 short years, 10% of the US population, almost 35 million people have elected a progressive prosecutor or reelected, a progressive prosecutor.”
“It’s inevitable,” said Krasner.
“When you become the most incarcerated country in the entire world, it’s going to affect a lot of people, not just the ones going to jail, not just their families, but their communities.
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