The Impeachment of Larry Krasner and the Sunsetting of the Progressive Prosecutor
Last Wednesday, the Pennsylvania House voted to impeach Philadelphia District Attorney Larry Krasner. This brings the self-described "progressive prosecutor" one step closer to being removed from office. If the trial in the Republican-led state Senate does not go Krasner's way, he will join DA Chesa Boudin, whom San Francisco voters recalled in June, in being ushered out of office before his
first term is complete. And while I do not have crystal ball, I might aver that, in the wake of Portland’s recent election showing a move toward the middle, DA Mike Schmidt might be hearing rumblings from the constituency.
The policies of each of these prosecutors was essentially the same: End incarceration for nonviolent offenses and abolish cash bail. Lawmakers took their cues, and after the killing of George Floyd especially, citizens voted in a new consciousness. Not in six decades, and possibly ever, had the country spoken as passionately and in one pitch about righting historical and racial inequities when it came to meting out justice. And there were successes. Under Krasner, for instance, ten people wrongly convicted of murder had their convictions reversed.
And yet progressive policies did nothing to stop day-to-day crime in The City of Brotherly Love. Robberies more than doubling since 2021 and an epidemic of carjacking, many at gunpoint, made it challenging to see the new policies as a success. Doubt creeping in might have felt like a personal failing, like not staying the course. Why not widen the bumpers a bit, in terms of what constitutes a violent offense? Squint hard enough and that looting downtown, that federal building on fire, can be deemed acts of political protest and treated as such; Mike Schmidt, for instance, declined to charge more than 90% of those arrested during the Portland protests of 2020. Which might have been mostly okay, few people being in favor of over-incarceration. Still, it required judges go easy on rioters, to maybe reduce a felony to a misdemeanor, to count on citizens to whistle past the ever-rising numbers of violent crime.
For a while, they whistled. They were okay - or at least did not too loudly say they were not okay - with the civic decrepitude that came with legalized open-air drug use with little to no corresponding drug treatment, with skyrocketing levels of vandalism, with 100+ nights of non-stop violence. If these episodes poked holes in the social fabric, people could work around the holes, or pretend to not see the holes, or see them as the price of progress.
Krasner's demotion told me Philadelphians were no longer up for workarounds; that they had become impatient with things getting worse before they possibly got better. The murder rate, for instance, was alarming: when Krasner was elected in 2018, Philly clocked 351 homicides; the 2022 number stands at 464. Boudin saw a rise from 41 when he took office in 2019, to 56 in 2021 (the last year he served a full term). Schmidt saw the largest percentage rise, from 55 when he was elected in 2020, to 84 so far this year.
If it gave me hope to learn that Krasner had been impeached, it was not for the scoring of political points, which I could care less about (but which undoubtedly was on the minds of the GOP, the 107-85 vote nearly split along party lines), but because it seemed a reflection of people having had enough of being told their views were corrupt, or racist; that their moral compasses were off. It said they were no longer willing to shrug when violent offenders skated in the name of reform, and were further concerned at what those reforms had given birth to. These were issues cited by San Franciscans when they voted out Chesa Boudin, and ones Mike Schmidt may soon be asked to answer for.
Case in point: On August 11, a Portland woman named Rachael Abraham was assaulted by her estranged boyfriend Mohamed Adan. Adan had previously been charged with multiple attacks on Abraham, including five counts of felony strangulation. And yet all summer he was released by judges on zero bail, until the last time, when a private fund for black, brown and indigenous defendants either did not do its due diligence or found the severity of Adan's offenses immaterial to its mission, and paid $2000 to have him released. A week later, Adan, who is black, murdered Abraham, who was also black.
You want to start a private bail fund for left-handed Croatian tennis players? Be my guest. But presupposing a person's right to freedom based on a series of subjective criteria is immoral and can lead, as it did in this case, to a disastrous outcome. Whether the bail fund, or the participating judges or the legal team that defended Adan, realized their nominally noble cause could trump Abraham's right to stay alive, is unknown. For now they maintain a unified silence on the matter, which I find craven, and evidence perhaps of how those claiming to fight for justice can be as resistant to accountability as those who commit crime.
In this they have something in common with Krasner, who in a statement following his impeachment claimed lawmakers had not presented "a single shred of evidence connecting our policies to any uptick in crime." To which Philadelphia now reasonably asks: If you can find no fault in yourself, how can we trust you to find it in others?
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Had to keep reminding myself, as I was reading this story about Philadelphia, which Mike Schmidt was being referenced :)
Philadelphia's not asking; at least you don't present any evidence that it is. Republicans in the PA Legislature are the ones impeaching Krasner.