Philadelphia District Attorney Larry Krasner is running for a second term on Nov. 2, when he faces an election day challenge from longtime criminal defense attorney Chuck Peruto.
Krasner rose to the Democratic nomination in May when he defeated challenger Carlos Vega in a low-turnout primary election, garnering over 66% of the vote. A former homicide attorney in the DA’s office, Vega had led a police union-backed campaign that hammered Krasner over the gun violence epidemic that accelerated in Philadelphia during the coronavirus pandemic.
Peruto, a former Democrat and prominent defense lawyer, ran unopposed as a Republican in May, following a similar scenario of public safety panic in what is shaping up to be a long-drawn-out attempt to overthrow the holder.
Ahead of the primary, the tone of public debate cast doubt on Krasner’s job security against Vega. The imbalanced calculations by Philadelphia’s 7-1 Democratic voting base largely made the November election against Peru a formality, even though many questions surrounding Krasner remain unchanged.
The last Republican to serve as Philadelphia attorney was Ronald D. Castille, who resigned during his second term in 1991 to run for mayor.
After a heated TV debate between Krasner and Vega in the spring, Peruto couldn’t even convince Krasner to give him the time when the challenger was looking for a similar forum. Krasner called the idea a “waste of time”, prompting Peruto to retaliate and call Krasner a “coward”, while simultaneously lambasting the Republican Party for abandoning the city by failing to invest in its campaign.
Krasner’s election in Philadelphia four years ago heralded a wave of progressive district attorneys who championed reform-oriented agendas in cities across the United States.
In Philadelphia, Krasner uprooted veteran prosecutors from the DA’s office, including Vega, and assembled a team to address systemic loopholes. Krasner’s first term focused on fairness and accountability in the criminal justice system, from setting aside wrongful convictions and reducing the prison population to reducing cash deposits, limiting from the practice of confiscating civilian assets and reducing prosecutions for minor offenses.
On many of Krasner’s campaign promises, his progressive base doesn’t think he’s gone far enough. His critics, meanwhile, argue that the downstream effect of his reform agenda has been higher rates of violent crime and emboldened criminals unafraid of the consequences in Philadelphia.
The Krasner Campaign Site boasts a number of achievements made during his first term, including a 40% reduction in the city’s prison population, placing it at its lowest level since 1985. The campaign also highlights a concerted effort by the prosecutor’s office to prevent minors offenders to be tried as adults. In addition to directing more young offenders to criminal diversion programs, Krasner’s office reduced child out-of-home placements by over 80% in its first term and took a strong focus on towards a restorative justice model for minors.
Some of Krasner’s highest praise received points for the work done by his Conviction Integrity Unit, which helped secure the exoneration of 18 people who had been jailed because of wrongful convictions. Krasner’s unit worked to secure the release of Walter Ogrod, who spent 28 years behind bars for the unsolved 1988 murder of 4-year-old Barbara Jean-Horn and also helped clear Anthony’s name Wright in the 1991 murder of an elderly woman in North Philadelphia. Wright spent 25 years in prison for crimes he did not commit and received a $ 9.85 million settlement from the city.
The investigation into the conduct of several Philadelphia Police detectives involved in cases that resulted in wrongful convictions ultimately resulted in criminal charges against them this summer.
What Kranser’s office failed to shake upon his re-election was the alarming increase in shootings and homicides in Philadelphia during his tenure. The city recorded 499 homicides in 2020, up from 356 the previous year, and has already reached 450 homicides in 2021. The police department has reported more than 3,300 gunshot incidents and 1,800 gunshot victims this year, two statistics in ahead of the disturbing pace of last year.
“Do you think Larry Krasner has a secret plan to tackle gun violence? Peruto asks in a campaign ad. “He’s keeping his fingers crossed.
Much like Vega did in elementary school, Peruto, 66, focused on the gun crime conviction rate during Krasner’s first term. Krasner’s office claims the rate is close to 85%. Its opponents argue that it is not a faithful reflection of the Numbers, as a growing percentage of gun cases have been withdrawn or rejected.
In the spring, Krasner, 60, argued that such statistics do not accurately assess how the prosecutor’s office, police department and courts all interact in the criminal justice system. Indeed, Krasner interprets these criticisms of his office as a political scapegoat for larger issues that his office’s reform efforts hope to resolve.
Along with the city council, the prosecutor’s office has invested millions of dollars in violence prevention programs over the past year. A report by City Comptroller Rebecca Rhynhart’s office found earlier this year that only a small portion of those funds are for immediate interventions, as opposed to long-term violence-reduction strategies.
Peruto’s largely self-funded campaign has seen a number of weird moments this year.
The bizarre entry “The Girl in My Bathtub” on her campaign website – a damage control preventative measure that has since been removed – explained the circumstances in which Julia Law, a 26-year-old former legal assistant, was found died at her home in 2013.
Peruto was dating Law for a short time before her death and was on vacation in Avalon when she passed away. He was not involved by the police and the investigation determined Law probably died of alcohol poisoning and drowning, possibly complicated by a seizure.
Peruto also released a YouTube campaign video in February, before the primary, in which he spoke continuously for almost 35 minutes and awkwardly proclaimed, “I understand black people about as well as black people.”
But beyond Peruto’s quirks, his Platform calls for an idiosyncratic mix of moderate policies and others that seek to roll back Krasner’s more progressive positions, including Krasner’s outright avoidance of calling for the death penalty. On the issue of police reform, Peruto tried to strike a balance between the need for internal change and ensuring that law enforcement received more support in the fight against crime.
“We need to start changing the culture of our police department, starting with the police academy, upstream,” Peruto writes on his website. “However, no police officer will be sued by me where I will have to resort to the second hypothesis and the Monday morning quarterback for a decision they will make. If their decision is justified in the circumstances, they have no fear of prosecution. “
Peruto pleaded for greatly expand the power of the district attorney, up to and including oversight of the Philadelphia Police Department – rather than leaving that authority to the mayor’s office – and the selection of a panel of judges who would focus entirely on gun cases. These are not areas where the District Attorney currently wields such influence, but Peruto’s low chance of victory has given him leeway to adopt a number of views that he freely admitted will do. lose votes.
In a quiet year for the Philadelphia municipal election, it doesn’t look like Larry Krasner will face formidable opposition at the polls. But four more years in office will undoubtedly come with the expectation that Krasner’s philosophy will begin to have a measurable impact on reducing violent crime in Philadelphia.