Pennsylvania Republican legislators seeking solutions to the crime and violence in Philadelphia that have spilled into other communities across the Keystone State denounced city District Attorney Larry Krasner this weekend for suing to escape their oversight.
GOP general assembly members, who allege Krasner has demonstrated a “willful refusal to enforce Pennsylvania’s criminal laws,” made it clear they want to impeach the far-left prosecutor and introduced a resolution to that effect months ago. They almost certainly, however, lack the two-thirds of Senate votes necessary to do so.
In July, Republicans who control the State House of Representatives formed the Select Committee on Law and Order to examine causes of and responses to violent crime in the City of Brotherly Love. Chaired by State Representative John Lawrence (R-West Grove), the committee also includes Representatives Wendi Thomas (R-Richboro), Torren Ecker (R-Abbottstown), Amen Brown (D-Philadelphia) and Danilo Burgos (D-Philadelphia). Neither of the Democrats appointed by House Speaker Bryan Cutler (R-Quarryville) supported creating the ad hoc panel.
Pursuant to its goals, members are seeking various documents from the city prosecutor’s office, including grand jury records pertaining to the upcoming homicide trial of former policeman Ryan Pownall, who shot and killed 30-year-old illegal-firearm carrier David Jones during a foot chase. Krasner refused to comply with the committee’s subpoena before litigating to quash it.
“No one is above the law,” Lawrence said in a statement. “The House of Representatives has clear authority under the Pennsylvania Constitution, state law, case law, and the Rules of the House to pursue this legislative initiative. As Chairman, I will take appropriate action to ensure the mandate of the Select Committee is fulfilled, and the institutional authority of the House is maintained.”
The petitioner sought to frame the committee’s actions as vendetta politics.
“It is undisputed that District Attorney Krasner has not committed an impeachable offense,” the prosecutor’s lawsuit incorrectly stated. “House Republicans simply disagree with his policies, and they do not respect the choice made by the Philadelphia voters who elected him or foundational principles of government.”
Krasner’s supporters contend that prosecutorial discretion protects the district attorney from legal consequences when he deliberately neglects to prosecute many violent criminals who are often recidivists. Yet the Pennsylvania Supreme Court has stipulated that impeachable offenses can include the “performance by a public official of a discretionary act with an improper or corrupt motive.”
Krasner’s critics ascribe much of Philadelphia’s recent surge in violence to the district attorney’s laxity toward criminals and hostility toward the police. Last year, murders numbered an all-time high of 562 in the municipality, with this year’s total possibly on track to exceed that figure; 364 homicides have occurred so far, a one-percent increase over the 359 deliberate killings that happened by this point in 2021.
Lawrence observed the staggering crime rate as a motivator to press on with his committee’s work.
“At a time when Philadelphia has seen record levels of crime and violence, a bipartisan majority of the House approved House Resolution 216 to investigate surging crime and violence in the city,” he said. “The Select Committee’s ongoing mission established by House Resolution 216 will not be deterred by the grandstanding and stonewalling that some have chosen to pursue.”
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Bradley Vasoli is managing editor of The Pennsylvania Daily Star. Follow Brad on Twitter at @BVasoli. Email tips to [email protected].
Photo “Larry Krasner” by DA Larry Krasner. Background Photo “Courtroom” by Karen Neoh. CC BY 2.0.