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  1. #1
    raider.adam is offline Senior Member
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    Default The disaster that is the District Attorney's office

    In America's most violent big city, people accused of serious crimes are escaping conviction with stunning regularity, an Inquirer investigation has found.

    Philadelphia defendants walk free on all charges in nearly two-thirds of violent-crime cases. Among large urban counties, Philadelphia has the nation's lowest felony-conviction rate.

    Only one in 10 people charged with gun assaults is convicted of that charge, the newspaper found.

    Only two in 10 accused armed robbers are found guilty of armed robbery.

    Only one in four accused rapists is found guilty of rape.

    The data also show that people charged with assaults with a gun escape conviction more often than those who use fists or knives. Of people arrested for possession of illegal handguns, almost half go free.
    Justice: Delayed, Dismissed, Denied | Philadelphia Inquirer | 12/13/2009

    Lynne Abraham has been our DA for 18 years and the Inky releases this a month before she voluntarily leaves office? If anything they should have at least timed this to release during the actual election to influence discussion amongst the candidates and solutions.

    A lot of this isn't even breaking news (even though it is overwhelming when put all together). I spoke out about a lot of the prosecution problems in 2008 during the Congressional campaign (the proposed solution was to send more gun crime cases to the federal courts and prosecutors where they won't be as lenient as our local system).


    It also shows that a good chunk of Philadelphia's crime problem is from "not being tough enough" on the real dangers to society.
    Last edited by raider.adam; 12-14-2009 at 09:41 AM.

  2. #2
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    Quote Originally Posted by raider.adam View Post
    Justice: Delayed, Dismissed, Denied | Philadelphia Inquirer | 12/13/2009

    Lynne Abraham has been our DA for 18 years and the Inky releases this a month before she voluntarily leaves office? If anything they should have at least timed this to release during the actual election to influence discussion amongst the candidates and solutions.

    A lot of this isn't even breaking news (even though it is overwhelming when put all together). I spoke out about a lot of the prosecution problems in 2008 during the Congressional campaign (the proposed solution was to send more gun crime cases to the federal courts and prosecutors where they won't be as lenient as our local system).


    It also shows that a good chunk of Philadelphia's crime problem is from "not being tough enough" on the real dangers to society.
    In fairness, Adam, the article doesn't lay ALL of the blame at the DA's doorstep (just a lot of it). The courts themselves, the clerks office, the street culture, the sheriff's office, the police - all sorts of things contribute to the disarray. Granted, a really tightly-run prosecutor's office would help a lot, but it isn't the entire dismal story.

    I love the fact that one defense attorney notes that he has won serious cases because the witnesses were stuck in the first floor mob scene waiting for an elevator in the courthouse. Which is why I always take the top secret stairway 100 feet to the east when I need to get anywhere in that stupid building.
    Last edited by Seanibus; 12-14-2009 at 09:49 AM.
    Owl looked at Rabbit and wondered whether to push him off the tree, but feeling that he could always do it afterward, he tried once more to find out what they were talking about.

  3. #3
    Hospitalitygirl's Avatar
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    From an email exchange with a good friend of mine, who was a long time prosecutor, and is now elsewhere:

    What's wrong with the philly justice system and philly in general is corrupt politics. Too many deals and paybacks by judges and elected officials. Even the police commissioner has been political, and ruined the force. Oh I could talk forever. No deterrence of crime!!
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    raider.adam is offline Senior Member
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    Quote Originally Posted by Seanibus View Post
    In fairness, Adam, the article doesn't lay ALL of the blame at the DA's doorstep (just a lot of it). The courts themselves, the clerks office, the street culture, the sheriff's office, the police - all sorts of things contribute to the disarray. Granted, a really tightly-run prosecutor's office would help a lot, but it isn't the entire dismal story.

    I love the fact that one defense attorney notes that he has won serious cases because the witnesses were stuck in the first floor mob scene waiting for an elevator in the courthouse. Which is why I always take the top secret stairway 100 feet to the east when I need to get anywhere in that stupid building.
    I am not saying it is all the DA, but like you said, a good chunk of it is. As you said, even judges are to blame and how the courts are run.

    Which makes the timing even doubly worse. Didn't we have votes on judicial retentions this election as well? So they release an article at a time when it has the absolute least amount of impact.

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    Quote Originally Posted by Hospitalitygirl View Post
    From an email exchange with a good friend of mine, who was a long time prosecutor, and is now elsewhere:
    I have a friend at the DA office, though not in the main criminal section, who agrees that his people are often frustrated by other state and local agencies that simply will not cooperate in collecting evidence, enforcing decisions, or opening related administrative cases. He also has relatively little complimentary to say about the system for selecting judges, though he said there are lots of good judges who try hard to do the right thing.
    Owl looked at Rabbit and wondered whether to push him off the tree, but feeling that he could always do it afterward, he tried once more to find out what they were talking about.

  6. #6
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    Can someone explain to me why witnesses have to appear at multiple preliminary hearings? It makes absolutely no sense.

    And where in the story is Bob Brady? Every is there any incompetent or corrupt judge or clerk who has received an endorsement from him?

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    blindingsun is offline Senior Member
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    Judges are always reluctant to impose justice when it comes to long prison terms which generally accompany violent crimes. The only crimes that guarantee real time are murder and drug cases. If its your word against an attacker even if you have physical evidence 9 times out of ten they will walk. Its just common knowledge. There has to be eyewitness testimony. If someone shows up and gives an alibi your chances are even slimmer. It is not the DA's office. Its the judges and juries mainly. If the alleged perpetrator has connections to someone in office your chances of a conviction get even slimmer. It has to be a slam dunk case these days.

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    PhillyRunner is offline Senior Member
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    Now, being married to an Ass't DA, I'm certainly biased; but I'll offer the following feedback for what it's worth. Considering the lousy hand they've been dealt, the DAs do an impressive job trying to reign in this city's crime.

    Let me give you one example that I know frustrates the hell out of the DA's. Accused robber T. Jones is scheduled for an arraignment on Monday morning at 9am. The sheriff's office, assigned to transport T. Jones to the courthouse, screws up and accidentally brings J. Jones, another accused criminal, to the courthouse instead. As a result, accused robber T. Jones misses his arraignment and the judge orders the city to let him go... (This was hinted at on page 2 of the Inky story.)

    Combine that type of nincompoopery with cops who miss their appointed court times, a judicial election system that allows defense attorneys to all but buy the support of defense-friendly judges, and a budget that's already stretched tight because the city needs to buy the support of its various unions and other teat-sucking constituencies, and it's a wonder that criminals are convicted at all.

    If you want more convictions, then tell the city and state to step up with greater funding for witness protection; tell the police, sheriff's office and the prison systems to coordinate better with the DA's office; and elect judges who won't put up with defense attorneys' bull****.

    I won't disagree that the office could stand to have a better system of administration. I imagine that most of the Ass't DAs would agree with that. But it's going to take a lot more than the DA monitoring its track-record to make sure that the city's worst are put in prison and kept there.
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    Quote Originally Posted by Illiniwek View Post
    Can someone explain to me why witnesses have to appear at multiple preliminary hearings? It makes absolutely no sense.

    And where in the story is Bob Brady? Every is there any incompetent or corrupt judge or clerk who has received an endorsement from him?
    You need to establish either a chain of custody or a chain of events for a prima facie case.
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  10. #10
    Hospitalitygirl's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by blindingsun View Post
    Judges are always reluctant to impose justice when it comes to long prison terms which generally accompany violent crimes. The only crimes that guarantee real time are murder and drug cases. If its your word against an attacker even if you have physical evidence 9 times out of ten they will walk. Its just common knowledge. There has to be eyewitness testimony. If someone shows up and gives an alibi your chances are even slimmer. It is not the DA's office. Its the judges and juries mainly. If the alleged perpetrator has connections to someone in office your chances of a conviction get even slimmer. It has to be a slam dunk case these days.
    Juries are a problem. It's partly the effect of shows like the CSI franchise, where they have investigators with physical evidence and scopes, etc. Everyone wants the science now. It just doesn't happen that often. And then the juries themselves have always been juries from Hell but are getting even worse. Forgiveness is one thing. Realizing that when someone does a misdeed, you can forgive but they must pay the consequences is part of the process. Paging Beckyj here... A homicide trial this past summer. Defendant was accused of gunning down two. But some were reluctant to convict because..."he didn't *mean* to kill them". Intent and premeditation can be formed in mere seconds. And then even if you want to forgive, you still must have them pay the consequences for their deed.
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  11. #11
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    Quote Originally Posted by raider.adam View Post
    Justice: Delayed, Dismissed, Denied | Philadelphia Inquirer | 12/13/2009

    Lynne Abraham has been our DA for 18 years and the Inky releases this a month before she voluntarily leaves office? If anything they should have at least timed this to release during the actual election to influence discussion amongst the candidates and solutions.

    A lot of this isn't even breaking news (even though it is overwhelming when put all together). I spoke out about a lot of the prosecution problems in 2008 during the Congressional campaign (the proposed solution was to send more gun crime cases to the federal courts and prosecutors where they won't be as lenient as our local system).


    It also shows that a good chunk of Philadelphia's crime problem is from "not being tough enough" on the real dangers to society.
    I came away from this article thinking what a total ignorant ass our DA is. All of the people interviewed EXCEPT for Abraham were apologetic and vowed to fix the problems. our current DA on the other hands was combative, arrogant, and defensive. I recall one instance where she said she was "incensed that the Inquirer would use statistics" to judge her performance. How else can we judge it? Statistics don't lie.

    I'm beginning to wonder how much of the problem she was. Seems to me she was a large part of it.

    Good riddance Lynne Abraham.
    “If asking a millionaire to pay the same tax rate as a plumber makes me a class warrior, a warrior for the working class, I will accept that. I will wear that charge as a badge of honor. The only ‘warfare’ I’ve seen is the battle that’s been waged against middle-class families in this country for a decade now.”

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  12. #12
    Hospitalitygirl's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Bulworth67 View Post
    I came away from this article thinking what a total ignorant ass our DA is. All of the people interviewed EXCEPT for Abraham were apologetic and vowed to fix the problems. our current DA on the other hands was combative, arrogant, and defensive. I recall one instance where she said she was "incensed that the Inquirer would use statistics" to judge her performance. How else can we judge it? Statistics don't lie.

    I'm beginning to wonder how much of the problem she was. Seems to me she was a large part of it.

    Good riddance Lynne Abraham.
    The editorial in the paper yesterday was *highly* critical of her. Editorial: A national disgrace | Philadelphia Inquirer | 12/13/2009
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  13. #13
    Sharkfood is offline Senior Member
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    Quote Originally Posted by raider.adam View Post
    Justice: Delayed, Dismissed, Denied | Philadelphia Inquirer | 12/13/2009

    Lynne Abraham has been our DA for 18 years and the Inky releases this a month before she voluntarily leaves office? If anything they should have at least timed this to release during the actual election to influence discussion amongst the candidates and solutions.

    A lot of this isn't even breaking news (even though it is overwhelming when put all together). I spoke out about a lot of the prosecution problems in 2008 during the Congressional campaign (the proposed solution was to send more gun crime cases to the federal courts and prosecutors where they won't be as lenient as our local system).


    It also shows that a good chunk of Philadelphia's crime problem is from "not being tough enough" on the real dangers to society.
    You can't lay all the blame on Lynne Abraham. The DA's office does not have the resources to deal with its current caseload. I can recall many occasions when Ms. Abraham requested increases, only to be turned down by Rendell, Street, Nutter, etc. Having said that, there is room for improvement.

    The person conspicuously absent from the article is Everett Gillson, the deputy mayor for public safety. This guy is a lifelong member of the public defender's office and he actually had the nerve to say early in Nutter's term that he didn't find anything wrong with the 59% felony dismissal rate in the Court system. Whatever you want to say about the Police Commissioner, there is an appalling lack of leadership from Nutter on criminal justice.

  14. #14
    Sharkfood is offline Senior Member
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    The Courts have an overwhelming caseload. Our constitution guarantees criminal defendants the right to a speedy trial. So the Court is under tremendous pressure to move cases.

    One of the problems is the "felony waiver program." In order to move cases (and reduce the number of cases that reach trial), the Court has a program that encourages defendants to plead guilty to lesser charges. This results in people getting much lighter sentences than they would receive if they faced the same charges in, say, Delaware County.

  15. #15
    Hospitalitygirl's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Sharkfood View Post
    The Courts have an overwhelming caseload. Our constitution guarantees criminal defendants the right to a speedy trial. So the Court is under tremendous pressure to move cases.

    One of the problems is the "felony waiver program." In order to move cases (and reduce the number of cases that reach trial), the Court has a program that encourages defendants to plead guilty to lesser charges. This results in people getting much lighter sentences than they would receive if they faced the same charges in, say, Delaware County.
    Is the Waiver program really that much of a problem? It's where the lesser cases, and the multiple drug arrests and car cases go. It's not like the rapes and the egregious aggravated assaults have a habit of ending up there.
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    Hospitalitygirl's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Sharkfood View Post
    The person conspicuously absent from the article is Everett Gillson, the deputy mayor for public safety. This guy is a lifelong member of the public defender's office and he actually had the nerve to say early in Nutter's term that he didn't find anything wrong with the 59% felony dismissal rate in the Court system. Whatever you want to say about the Police Commissioner, there is an appalling lack of leadership from Nutter on criminal justice.
    Hmm...this sounds familiar. I can recall several people being not at all happy that Gillison was appointed to this position.
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    phillycat is offline Senior Member
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    I loved this part:

    For years, Abraham has complained about the court's failure to collect the money. Mayor Nutter, in a recent letter to her, blamed Clerk of Quarter Sessions Vivian T. Miller, saying her "inability to provide accurate records" had stalled the entire effort.

    In an interview, Robin T. Jones, Miller's top aide and her daughter, acknowledged the office had no computerized records of the debts, just paper notations in each defendant's file.


    First you think, seriously, NO COMPUTERIZED RECORD? and then you go, wait, what HER DAUGHTER?

    Pathetic.

  18. #18
    raider.adam is offline Senior Member
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    Quote Originally Posted by phillycat View Post
    I loved this part:

    For years, Abraham has complained about the court's failure to collect the money. Mayor Nutter, in a recent letter to her, blamed Clerk of Quarter Sessions Vivian T. Miller, saying her "inability to provide accurate records" had stalled the entire effort.

    In an interview, Robin T. Jones, Miller's top aide and her daughter, acknowledged the office had no computerized records of the debts, just paper notations in each defendant's file.


    First you think, seriously, NO COMPUTERIZED RECORD? and then you go, wait, what HER DAUGHTER?

    Pathetic.
    Which is really the summation of the article. I didn't mean to say that this is all the DA's offices fault. A more accurate title would have been "the disaster that is our justice system". I picked on the DA office in particular because I was incensed on the fact that this comes out right AFTER the election for the elected office that has the biggest involvement with said system. So, instead of publishing this during the election to help the discussion for the race as well as judicial retentions, they publish it after the fact when it will have its least usefulness.

    And to touch on what you said and Illiniwek said further, it all seems to imply the ward structure is the cancer behind all of this. The City Committees effectively elect the row offices and the judges.

    With so many hands in the cookie jar, it makes you wonder where you even start to fix the problems.

  19. #19
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    You know what is even more sad? The fact that a thread about a stolen or missing trash can in SWCC has had almost as many replies and more views.
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    PhillyRunner is offline Senior Member
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    Quote Originally Posted by raider.adam View Post
    Which is really the summation of the article. I didn't mean to say that this is all the DA's offices fault. A more accurate title would have been "the disaster that is our justice system". I picked on the DA office in particular because I was incensed on the fact that this comes out right AFTER the election for the elected office that has the biggest involvement with said system. So, instead of publishing this during the election to help the discussion for the race as well as judicial retentions, they publish it after the fact when it will have its least usefulness.
    You know... there's a website that provides a significant amount of detail about docketed criminal cases. I would think that a politically-minded do-gooder [wink, wink, nudge, nudge] could provide this city a world of good by crafting a program that would extract the information in that database, convert it into a searchable, sortable format and allow people to assess judges by the numbers (e.g., conviction rates, sentencing, etc.)
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