Independent Lens


Part 3 | Philly D.A. | Episode 3

As a candidate, Larry Krasner pledged his office would never seek the death penalty. That promise is put to the test when a police sergeant is murdered while shopping for his son’s birthday. Krasner faces pressure from the police union, the slain officer’s family, and his own attorneys to pursue the death penalty. Lives—and his credibility—hang in the balance of the D.A.’s biggest decision yet.

AIRED: April 27, 2021 | 0:55:45

narrator: Previously, on "Philly D.A."...

- Krasner promises big changes to the city's justice system.

- I will not seek the death penalty.

- Just stand on your word.

Stand on what you committed to doing.

- Weapon.

- He's never been pro-law enforcement.

- He did need to do a house cleaning. He did.

- There are people who don't want

to see him change anything.

- What do you think we're missing?

- You don't take kids charged with misdemeanors

and put them in detention centers.

- You don't have to destroy the system

to get the results you want.

- Around the country, in communities as diverse

as Ferguson, Minneapolis, Philadelphia,

races for district attorneys could transform

the criminal justice system.

One such race is taking place in Boston, Massachusetts,

where progressive Rachael Rollins

won the Democratic primary.

- I woke up September 5, and was like,

"Oh my God, this is amazing."

And then you realize what a big job it is, right?

What keeps me awake is the first homicide

or the child or the really sort of violent crimes that--

how much of your time is spent on those?

- Well, I mean, we have about 300 homicides a year.

- 300? Wow. - Yeah.

We have--you know, approximately one every day.

How many you have in Boston?

- We don't have more than 50 a year, which is excellent.

- Okay, well, that helps. - Yeah.

I'm lucky I have you. I have Kim Foxx.

I have people I can actually look at and say--

- There's a lot, there's a lot of progressive D.A.s.

We have each other's cell phones and we call each other

when we want advice about decisions.

Let me just pass on to you a couple things

that I got from them.

You gotta figure out who's gotta go.

Because if you leave certain people in there,

the potential for you to actually form that office

into what you want it to be is gone.

I asked about 30-- - I read about it.

- About 30 attorneys to go.

And-and I should have asked more to go.

They dig in like ticks.

They undermine you at every turn.

And when you do something like hold--you know,

hold police accountable or overturn a conviction,

they say, "Krasner doesn't have our backs."

With Kim Foxx, they were spreading the laughable rumor

that she's gonna fire every white person.

- Well, that's what they're saying about me.

I'm just saying I want to be deliberate

when we're hiring people, that's it.

Like, nobody's saying you're all fired

and it's gonna turn into Wakanda

from frigging "Black Panther."

- Yeah. [laughter]

- But just-- - I love it.

I love it.

[light music]

[indistinct chatter]

- Good afternoon.

It's hard to believe that three years ago today,

Sergeant Wilson made the ultimate sacrifice

in protecting the citizens of this city.

At this time, I would like to bring up

Rob's sister, Shakira.

- Thank you for everyone to be here.

It's hard. Very hard.

Not having Robbie with us stings every day.

The moments when we want to pick up the phone,

to share a fun story or event,

cook a new dish and just have him come over and try it.

He was my best friend.

I want to thank everyone who was here in the 22nd District.

Those that call,

send a message, we appreciate it,

when those nights get real quiet

and feel like no one's there.

[percussive music]

- The big story tonight,

the death of a Philadelphia police officer.

- Robert Wilson III went inside the GameStop

at 21st and Lehigh Avenue.

Moments later, two armed suspects

walked in and announced a hold-up.

- More than 50 shots were fired,

and Officer Wilson saved lives by maneuvering

that gun battle away from customers and employees.

- I've seen a lot of heroic actions

on the part of police officers.

I've not seen any

that rose above what I saw on that video.

- District Attorney Seth Williams says

he is likely to seek the death penalty for both men.

- Individuals that so cowardly gunned down

a uniformed Philadelphia police officer

would seem appropriate for the death penalty.

- Officer Wilson was in the store

shopping for a gift for his son.

- The 30-year-old officer was taken to a local hospital,

where he died of his injuries.

Wilson leaves behind two sons,

ages nine and one, as well as his grandmother.

[sirens blaring]

[birds chirping]

[distant chatter]

- I've got a museum going here.


And this one here, the artist did this after he was killed.

He did that with his medals on him and all.

Robert Wilson III.

This one, he just come out of the academy, right here.

And then this one over here is where I went

to meet the President, Obama.

Awards and all. All over.

They bring them in, I put them up.


Then he's more mature in this one.

It looks like he's looking right at you, don't it?

Everywhere you walk, look like he's looking right at you.

That's Robert.

He was a nice-tempered young man to raise.

He always had a smile. He had his arms open.

He said, "Bring it in." He'd always hugging and all.

That's him in the white suit.

Him and his sister together.

She misses him. We all miss him.

Think about him every day, every minute of the day.

It was something that didn't have to be.

I mean, they could have left the store.

I mean, they seen a police officer was in there.

But he protected the people.

He lost his life behind it,

but he did was he was supposed to do.

[somber music]

Years ago, a police officer was killed,

the automatic was death sentence.

But now, they try to-- what's his name?

The District Attorney, he ain't for it.

We're not backing down,

so he might as well get used to hearing us.

Get used to looking at us.

Because if Robbie was alive, he'd do the same thing for us.

And we're not gonna let them walk all over him.


- We asked Larry Krasner to join us on "Radio Times."

He was a guest when he was a candidate.

Now he is the Philadelphia District Attorney.

And nice to have you back with us on Radio Times.

- Thank you, Marty. - Now, I know you campaigned

in opposition to the death penalty.

Seth Williams, your predecessor,

said in this case that he would seek the death penalty.

Is this a test case for you

as an opponent of the death penalty?

- The death penalty is just not a great idea.

It's very much an eye for an eye.

That has been one aspect

of our District Attorney's office for a very long time.

- Philadelphia District Attorney Lynne Abraham

has become known as the country's deadliest D.A.,

the woman who will aggressively pursue capital punishment.

- It's a vindication of society's right

to exact the ultimate penalty

against those who would try to bring society to its knees.

My sense of when I saw that tape...

- Lynne very much approached every homicide as,

"I'm gonna charge first degree,

"whether or not it's a first-degree case or not.

I'm gonna seek the death penalty."

And the result is that you have a significant portion

of the row of mostly black and brown men

who are there because of where they happen to live.

They happen to be from Philadelphia.

- Reaches and touches everything...

Everybody says, "Well, you're the Queen of Death."

I never imposed the death penalty on anybody.

It was always the jury that decided that penalty.

Did I ask for it when appropriate?

Yes. Police officer gets killed.

If Krasner doesn't use the death penalty,

what does that do?

It tells you that these guys

don't think your life is worth anything.

- I have expressed repeatedly that I personally

have problems with the death penalty,

based upon my having served on a death penalty jury,

and also having defended these cases.

Since 1962, we have found six innocent people,

proven by DNA to be innocent, who were on death row.

If I could waive a wand,

I would change policy on this issue.

That's not my obligation as a public official.

It's to consider the specifics.

- To me, the biggest exciting thing

about Larry Krasner's candidacy

was that he said he will never use the death penalty.

So Larry gets elected.

You know the pushback that he's getting from

the FOP and the legal community and prosecutors

and their friends and their families,

and I think that will be a very big challenge.

[distant sirens]

- We need to have this capital committee a month ago.

We have active cases pending.

- How many cases would you say?

- There may be as many as ten.

And in all of those cases, up until this point,

this office will have been arguing aggressively

for maintaining an existing death penalty.

And there's gotta be some sort of decision

as to whether or not we want to continue to do that,

and the committee that has to look at that doesn't exist.

- Is the committee gonna be basically deciding

that we're no longer seeking the death sentence?

Is that-- - No. No.

The reason for the committee

is so that every case can be individually reviewed,

and a decision comes out of the committee:

either we're going to continue with the position

that the prior administration took,

or we're not going to.

It has to be Larry's final decision.

- Yeah.

- Hi. How are you?

- Good, thank you. - Okay.

- Sorry to invade. - No problem.

Do you want to see the whole lead-up?

- Yeah, I do. - Okay.

- Let's see the whole thing. - Okay.

You see everything that happens.

People in the video store,

and Sergeant Wilson in there, on a break.

He's looking at video games,

chatting with people behind the counter.

And these two young guys

on a terrible spree of robberies come rushing in,

and Sergeant Wilson moves away from the counter,

from a safer position,

to one where he's just out in the middle.

They're firing at him, and he's firing at them.

And fairly quickly, he's killed.

It's horrible.

The priority District Attorney's office had said

they were going to seek the death penalty.

We have to make that decision.

- Suspects in the murder of

Philadelphia police officer Robert Wilson III

are due in court today for a pre-trial hearing.

- The issue at hand here

is whether or not the death penalty

will be sought by D.A. Larry Krasner.

- We may learn that District Attorney Larry Krasner

is keeping his promise never to seek the death penalty.

- Now that campaign commitment is being tested

in the killing of a police officer,

only widening the divide between Philadelphia police

and the D.A.'s office.

- Good morning, Commissioner. - Commissioner.

- Moment of your time, please. - What's the word?

- Well, it was continued. Right now, as I understand it,

there was a continuance request on the part of the defense.

They're not ready.

Obviously, you have to take into account the frustration

that comes into play for their family.

You know, they're very upset about what they think

is gonna happen, relative to potential sentencing.

- Thanks, Commissioner. - Thank you, Commissioner.

- Thank you for your time.

- The FOP is right here.

Hey, John.

- How are you? - Good, buddy. How are you?

The Commissioner called it frustration.

John, what did you see up there?

- Yeah, I mean, that's a good way to categorize it.

It's a shame for the Wilson family.

They need answers.

I mean, if there's ever a classic case

for a death penalty case, this is it.

- Here we go.

- Hi. - How are you?

- Okay. Our family is angry.

We're very angry.

This D.A. is not for the victims.

My brother was a hero.

He gave his all, what he signed up to do,

the oath that he took to become an officer.

He stood up and protected those citizens in that store.

Krasner should be doing the same for my brother.

- The first group Krasner fired had that case sewed up,

was nothing else, and all he needed to do

was go forward and try it.

He backed it up. Something wrong here.

Now, you supposed to be the District Attorney of the city.

Do it right.

- This is a capital case.

It deserves capital punishment.

And nothing less. Nothing less.

[somber music]

- For months, I've been working with the juvenile unit

to frame a new set of policies

about how we should be prosecuting children.

A lot of the supervisors coming from the last administration

disagree with these policies.

And so one of the things that I've done is really tried

to have open forum with those administrators and supervisors,

so I can understand why they disagree.

Here's my beef.

I ask people, wherever I've gone

throughout this country one simple question, okay?

In our juvenile justice system in your area,

would you want to put your kids in that system

and send them to out of home placement programs

that we're sending kids to?

You wouldn't want your kids there.

- No.

- I wouldn't want my kids there.

We really have to find a way

to get other peoples' kids out of there.

We're locking up too many kids. We really are.

- Yeah.

- Can we get the data on placements for the year,

so when we look at it, we see where we are now?

Because I want to see the population go down.

I know--I know, looking at the benchmarks,

I can tell whether we're succeeding or not.

- Can you guys start saving the detention list sheets

on the aids drive, so that people can see them?

- I don't know how meaningful that would be.

I mean, you don't know what we know.

- When you read a file, you're gonna then make

a judgment based upon you're reading the file.

You don't put it into a computer system.

I mean, just saying, like-- - Yeah.

- The case number and all that,

but we don't have the type of system where she could go in

and she can find out why we did what we did,

because we wrote in, "Kid not going to school."


- With all of that understood,

I think that if offer sheets were available,

so any person in this office could look and be like,

"Oh, today, X number of offers were made on lead charges..."

- We have that.

- That would be a really meaningful--

- No, we keep that stat. - All of this stuff...

- It's in a binder. - In an ideal world,

would be transparent.

Because getting access to information

is a big pain in the butt.

- I really want all these stats

so I can look at it across the board.

[gentle music]

[phone rings]

- We handle-- I think last year

it was like 2,200 cases that came through the system.

Simple assaults, rapes,

possession of guns, arson.

We're not robots of, like, conviction, move on, move on.

I mean, people want to make sure

that they can make a difference.

And we're running a busy unit,

so for me to keep data myself isn't gonna happen.

- I think I'm the first criminologist

to work on the office.

Data was not regularly used.

It has not been part of the culture in this office.

We think that policy should be data-driven,

and Larry has asked me to be responsible

for getting the data,

having the conversations around data.

People seemed enthused by it, so by golly let's do it.

We're trying to get data from the juvenile unit,

and I emailed this to Bob,

but it might be that people in here

are also not as happy to share data

as people out in the city.

So that's just a trouble

I've run into with the juvenile unit.

- Well, I mean, there definitely are

some privacy aspects to juvenile stuff,

so I wouldn't assume that they're being willful.

I don't know. But what are the issues?

- They gave access to Carly and they didn't give access to me.

So it's not necessarily--

- Who's "they"? - Lisa Harvey.

They have, like, a database software.

But I don't know, frankly, what they have on there,

because they don't share it.

- Did you talk to her?

- I sent emails, multiple emails.

I went down and had a data meeting with her.

And it's been two weeks.

So it's just--just seems like needless obfuscation.

- I will be happy to have a longer talk with people

if they're not giving you access.

- Great.

- 'Cause they should give you access.

- Yeah.

[lively music]

[indistinct chatter]

- Good morning, everyone.

I'd like to welcome everybody here today again

to our annual breakfast.

I've come share a couple minutes with our families

who lost a loved one protecting their communities.


This is something we do every year for the families

of those fallen in the line of duty.

It's a way of us giving back,

and it's a way to show that they're not forgotten.

Robert Wilson's family is here today.

We're not happy with the District Attorney.

We're not happy about the way he handles the case

not only with the Wilson family

but other families of murder victims around the city.


- Today, on "Off the Cuff Declassified,"

I'm gonna give you the infuriating story

of a police officer murdered,

and how the far left District Attorney in Philadelphia,

Larry Krasner, is denying his family justice.

These savage murderers should get the death penalty.

- Now Pennsylvania hasn't actually used the death penalty

even for those who were sentenced on it.

- Right. It's symbolic.

At least it says to the family the life mattered.

We're not cutting deals behind your back.

You know, Black lives don't matter when they were blue.

- Krasner, from his campaign to date,

has stated his moral and personal obligation

never to seek the death penalty.

I am basically going to parallel this

to a situation in Florida.

Do you know the name Aramis Ayala?

- State Attorney Aramis Ayala announced

she wasn't seeking the death penalty

against accused cop killer Markeith Loyd,

in this case or any other.

- While I currently do have discretion

to pursue death sentences, I have determined that doing so

is not in the best interest of this community

or the best interest of justice.

It's not just because I am the first black elected

State Attorney in the State of Florida

that I think differently.

It's bigger than that.

I have a different concept of justice.

We have seen that the use of discretion

historically was never a problem.

But when the face of the prosecutor changed,

now discretion has gone too far.

- Ayala received backlash from lawmakers and law enforcement.

- Governor Scott removed her

from nearly two dozen death penalty cases.

- For the State Attorney Ayala to say she's not gonna pursue

the death penalty is an outrage.

- Shortly after his public statements,

then the letters start rolling in.

I receive a noose that reminds me,

"a nigga will also just be a nigga,"

threatening my life, reminding me

that I have children.

Those are very real things.

- Remember something: a prosecutor,

whether it's Ayala in Florida or Krasner in Philadelphia,

can't create the law.

So I am imploring Pennsylvania voters

to start creating legislation to put checks and balances

in place for local elected officials

who derelict their duty.

- Rolling. - Rolling.

We're ready, guys.

- So let's talk about capital punishment.

Right now, the Officer Wilson case is still a capital case,

which your office is making decisions about,

whether it remains a capital case.

Is that right? - Right.

The situation in this office for decades has been

that there's a committee that considers cases

that are potentially capital cases

and decides whether or not to pursue death.

That committee will make recommendations to me,

and a decision will be made.

We're just not at that point yet.

- Family members, though, have been very vocal

about what they want to see.

His grandmother says "This must be a capital case."

You've met with family members, have you not?

- I met with grandmother and with sister for two hours.

They need to have their voice. They don't get a veto,

but they need to have their voice

when we make a decision.

- There may come a day where your committee says

this should be a capital case,

despite your promise on the campaign trail.

How difficult would that be for you to stand by

what this committee recommends?

- I have a duty here that I will complete.

I will pursue my duty.

But there's nothing inconsistent

about pursuing your duty and having a personal opinion

that the death penalty is a bad thing.

- What do you say to people

who criticize you as favoring criminals?

- I say the following:

Sergeant Wilson was killed during the last administration,

after 25 years of criminal justice policies

that just beat their chest and locked up

more and more people.

It didn't work.

- But do you favor criminals, is the question?

- Of course not. - Right.

- Come on, now.

- Anything else, guys?

- Yes. Before you--yep.

- Off the record, if you'd like.

Is there a time frame when you expect this committee

to decide on the Wilson case?

- Are we recording?

I just want to be clear about what's going on.

- We are recording.

- So this is all still on the record.

- Yeah. - Yeah, fair enough.

- So these guys were picked up and charge soon after.

Why is it taking the defense so long?

- The amount of work associated with a death penalty case

is at least twice the amount of work

associated with a serious homicide.

- So it's not concerning to you that it's taking this amount--

- As I said-- - We're done.

He's gotta go. It's 3:00.

I've got somewhere else he's gotta be.

- No problem. I thought we had a couple minutes.

- Thank you.

- Thanks for having us. - Thank you.

- Hey, so I just want to make sure--

[indistinct conversation]

It literally was, like, a greatest hits of

as many negative questions as this guy could ask.

He was just trying to trip up Larry as much as he could.

And then the thing at the end,

where they said we're off the record,

and then they kept on filming, and then they got--

and then he immediately jumps into, like,

the most controversial [bleep] that he could--

that was unbelievable.

And I don't think I helped by coming over

and telling him to go [bleep] himself.

That probably wasn't, like,

the most helpful thing that's ever happened.

- I feel honored to be the first victim

to ever sit in the head seat of Victim Services.

And I see that as a privilege and something

that I do not take lightly.

We're gonna do some amazing work together,

and we will not be harming victims

that we are supposed to be helping.

That's my goal.

After losing my son,

the Victim Services that were supposed to help me

wasn't available when I needed help.

That's one of the reasons why I came into the office--

was to fix the broken parts of the system.

You want to say something, Larry?

- I just have a couple comments.

You have been in a climate that at times has been one

where the families are so close to the prosecutor

that their opinions are not actually their opinions.

Their opinions are coming from what District Attorneys

have told them they should want,

not what they really want.

That is not your primary job. - Right.

- Your primary job is to work for victims,

to help victims with what they need.

It is not to talk them into a sentence the D.A. wants,

whether that's a good one or a bad one.

So I'm asking you to think about how your role

can at times be a little bit different

than what other people might want.

- Sergeant Wilson's grandmother and sister

have been very vocal.

But it was common knowledge that he had two children,

and the mothers of the children

had not been in conversation.

Hey, how are you?

I reached out to the mothers and found out

they don't want the death penalty for the two young men.


They want something totally different

from what the grandmother and sister want.

You are technically the next of kin of Rob Wilson.

It's appalling that this office has not listened

to the next of kin.

What they've done is listen to the person

who's been the loudest.

And that's not fair.

I'm so sorry that this office did not represent you.

You are co-victims of homicide. I'm so sorry.

I'm so sorry.


I can understand those mothers not wanting the death penalty.

I can understand them just wanting it to be over

so that they can raise their children.

Okay, I'll text you my email address now, okay?

Here's the thing:

the death penalty ain't death in Pennsylvania.

No one has received a lethal injection since the '60s.

Most people who get a death penalty case,

those families spend years in and out of court.

It goes on forever for these families.

But we got some old-school lawyers

who like the death penalty.

- I've been a lawyer for 39 years,

and I came to the D.A.'s office in 1981.

So I've been in the office 37 years.

I've been in homicide over 30 years.

This is rewarding work when you see that

you're doing justice for victims and for the families.

- Did you get that box, by the way?

- No, I didn't.

It's our obligation to do as thorough as job as pos--

in particular in this case,

because the sergeant who was killed

is known by a lot of people in this building.

He was a good cop. Did a great job.

And we know that our colleagues

are looking for us to do our best,

as is the law enforcement generally.

- We're about to have a meeting on the--

homicide, which the victim was Sergeant Wilson.

And in this meeting, we're gonna hear from

the two prosecuting attorneys, their thoughts about the case,

including about what the appropriate penalty is to seek.

- What Ed and I have planned is that

I'm going to cover the portion of the presentation

where we go into detail about the robbery

that led up to the murder of Sergeant Wilson.

And then obviously I'll cover the murder itself.

Ed is going to discuss the penalty for each defendant,

and then ultimately they'll have their own discussion

and make their own decision

as to what's gonna happen with the case.

Just want to hook stuff up to the TV in the conference room.

Just want to make sure it works right.

I don't think that there's any other cases

that are more death penalty appropriate

than the murder of law enforcement.

Law enforcement doesn't just include police officers.

It covers judges and prosecutors too.

I don't want to say it's one of our own,

because we are separate and apart

from the police department,

but we are law enforcement too.

- How long is that presentation for Larry?

- So I have a quick video of the robbery.

I have a trimmed-down version of a surveillance video

and the body cam video.

- You might want to be prepared to say,

"I have this video," the way you just

explained it to me, and he may say,

"We're not interested in the first robbery,

or you can describe that for us."

- But I don't know that everybody has seen

the body cam video. - Right.

- And obviously Larry's seen everything.

- And then after the presentation,

there will be a discussion.

But you won't be there for the discussion.

I also don't think we're gonna walk out

of that meeting tonight knowing one way

or the other what his final decision is.

- Right, obviously we have the status hearing on Monday.

- And he's well aware of that. - Okay.

- And I told him as much lead time as humanly possible,

because family's involved.

Say sundown on Friday, so that gives you guys time

to speak to them over the weekend

in advance of Monday, 9:00 a.m.

All right. - All right.

- We'll see you in 25 minutes.

- Hey, Ed.

I was just told by Anthony

that they probably don't want to see any of our video.

[uneasy music]

- Thank you. - Yeah.

- Hey, Ed, how many times do you think

you've had to present the facts

in a potential death penalty case?

- Zero, 'cause they didn't used to do things like this.

[indistinct chatter]

Wish I had some bourbon.

[indistinct chatter]

- Yeah, we should, since those guys are squeezed in.

- Gentlemen, this is not for public consumption.

- Thank you.

- [sighs]

They've been at it, what, three hours?

Whatever they do, there's repercussions.

The depth of the repercussions...

I don't know.

I mean, some people are gonna be upset either way.

And the reality of it is, no matter--

whether death is sought or not sought,

the reality of it is these guys

are never getting out of jail,

one way or the other.

Unfortunately, one thing you can't change is what happened.


- That meeting was pretty disappointing.

They came in and gave this presentation.

And certainly it was accurate about the details of the crime,

and that was very important to understand.

And then we get to this high-resolution photograph

of Wilson's grandmother and his sister

with the word "victims" across the top.

They were saying,

"The family--the family wants the death penalty."

There were no pictures of the kids,

mothers of the kids.

I started questioning them, "Why is there a picture here

"that doesn't show these other family members?

Who took the picture?"

The answer was that the slideshow

had been prepared by the FOP.

So we got this in the mailbox.

It says, "Idiot.

The yo-yos that killed Robert Wilson should burn."

Sent to our house.

- How often to you get mail like that?

- Not very often. - Not very often.

- That might be our first one.

- We get it at work sometimes.

- That's the first one... - And it gets vetted.

- That's been sent to the house, that I've seen.

- Well, we have security.

- Okay.

[uneasy music]

- One of the hardest things since I've come

into this office has been changing the culture.

We're still having to push back

against some of the old stuff.

And that's what it was yesterday in that meeting.

Like, death, death, death.

Even when the co-victims don't want it.


Who has the right to put anyone to death?

It's not my right to want--

even for the boys that murdered my son.

It's not right for me to want death for them.

So it's the culture.

Okay, let's call my girl.

[phone beeps, line ringing]

Hey, I'm sorry. I got out of here so late

that I didn't get the opportunity to call you.

So I told the committee

that you are very concerned for your children,

that you do not want them to ever see that video,

and that you do not want them having to grow up

in and out of court because of appeals.


Ed should not have called you.

He didn't have the right to call you.

The only reason why he called you

is because I spoke on your behalf.

Right, but they haven't been concerned

about listening to your voice all this time.

So now they just want you to agree to a death penalty,

because that's what they want.

But they're not even considering what's best

for you and your child.

Yeah. I'll talk to you soon.

All right. Bye, bye.


The politics.

He hasn't advocated for those women or those children once

since that officer was murdered.

He has only listened to the grandmother.

He has only buddied up with the FOP,

and they're the victims.

These children have to grow up in the city without a father.

Excuse me. Hello?

[mid-tempo electronic music]

- I got to drive back from Harrisburg with Bob yesterday.

- How was that? - Oh, it was great.

Have you heard of darning?

You can darn a sock? - Yeah.

- See, I never heard of it, so I thought--

Bob mentioned it, like, "Oh, darn."

- You've never darned your sock?

- I haven't darned anything.

Or I said I darned lots of things,

'cause I was like, "That darn cat.

This darn this and this--"

- Do people not teach Ben these basic life skills?

Bob, you know how to darn a sock?


- We were talking about it last night.

- Do you know how to darn a sock?

- Of course I know how to darn a sock.

- I didn't even know what darn was.

- He thought I was kidding.

He thought darning a sock was cursing it.

[indistinct chatter]

- Lisa was with the last administration.

She was chief of the juvenile unit.

Lisa has been a personal friend for a long time.

But D.A. Krasner has a different vision,

and a decision was made that we needed someone else.

Lisa is still in the juvenile unit.

She expressed a desire to stay in the unit.

But D.A. Krasner has replaced almost all the supervisors

in the District Attorney's office.

- I was really surprised. I shouldn't have been.

At that point, 100 people had been gone,

either fired, removed.

I think it was me and insurance fraud

still standing.

- How do you use your institutional knowledge

and memory to help the new administration?

[gentle music]

- I--

They don't want it.

[overlapping chatter]

- Let's talk about the stuff that matters.

Mr. Listenbee is gonna introduce some people.

- Okay, I'm very pleased to introduce to you,

in her new position, Miss Ebony Wortham

as the supervising attorney for juvenile.

Previously an assistant supervisor.


Ebony Wortham understands

juvenile justice practices and policies.

She understands what D.A. Krasner wants.

When you have a different vision,

sometimes it takes new leadership

in order to implement that vision,

and we've reached that point.

I really need the opinion of a cross-section of folks

that are in this room to really get the policies done right.

- I just don't want to have people who are stuck

in this entrenched culture to silence everyone else

who has come here to make a difference.

- Okay, we should figure out why kids

are being sent to placement.

What do you think makes the most sense?

- Overhaul of crossover court would really sort of dismantle

some of the dysfunction that we see.

- It's bad. - It's bad.

And the young people end up God knows where.

- This is a map of the different locations

where youth can be sent in the state of Pennsylvania.

You might as well be sending some of these kids to Canada.

- Do you think we should use "youth"

or "child" or "juvenile"?

- I think "juvenile" has become derogatory.

But whatever word you use is gonna become derogatory.

- We're at a point where we actually recommend

our policies to the D.A.

- We're not asking for random drug screens

as a condition of probation unless there's a reason

to believe that the child has a drug problem.

- The metaphor that I have found most useful

is the idea of shrinking the footprint,

making the system smaller and less damaging.

- The ADA should recommend an alternative

to detention at the time of any new arrest.

- And avoid criminalizing normal,

albeit unwanted, adolescent behavior.

- So how soon are we gonna roll this out and scare everybody?


[indistinct chatter]

[camera shutters clicking]

The policies set forth here seek to shrink

the footprint of Philadelphia's juvenile justice system

by decreasing the number of youths

sent to juvenile placement.

- The District Attorney's Office says the goal

is to address the issues of youth

while keeping the public safe.

- From the very beginning, District Attorney Larry Krasner

insisted that his staff develop policies

that focus on rehabilitation and second chances

as opposed to punishment.

District Attorney Krasner's vision and mandate

have given us the opportunity to exercise our discretion

to improve the lives of our children.

- Thank you, Bob.


[bright music]

- All right, so we're just gonna jump

right into the policies.

This is about us doing our job responsibly.

We don't want to put kids into almost, like,

the deepest end of the juvenile justice system.

What do you guys think?

- The use of alcohol in juveniles in conjunction

with marijuana is a significant issue.

Why aren't we looking at that at all?

- With these new policies,

is that something that we should oppose

when you have a parent coming in being, like,

"I honestly don't know what to do with this kid?"

- In crossover court, we don't arrest CDs.

I'm not sure if that was contemplated in this policy.

- I noticed that a child that's accused

of an alleged sex crime is not an exception.

I was just wondering, like, the rationale behind that.

- So these are very interesting questions

that you have raised.

It's really important to us that we know--

we really need your feedback,

but let's try to take a glass half-full approach.

We want this to work for the kids,

and we want this to work for their families.

- It's apparent that the D.A.

doesn't trust the attorneys in his office.

We created all these juvenile policies, and...

they didn't ask the attorneys about any of it.

If you just have an innate distrust of prosecutors,


everything you do is colored by that.

Because God forbid they have to ask someone

that went through before,

"How did you handle that issue?"

They told us: "No discussion.

We don't want to hear what you did before."

You can't throw that all out.

[somber music]

- You can eat now. - Yeah.

- You want them to warm it or no?

- Yeah.

- The case is scheduled for a status hearing Monday.

- The murderers need to be on death row.

That should be their home.

Ain't no getting off in a hundred years.

Want to put them on death row.

They want to keep them in jail, it's on them,

but they still on death row.

So we see what happens Monday. We'll be there.

[tense music]

- In the case of Robert Wilson's murder,

his two accused killers have a status hearing this morning.

- The FOP has rallied behind the family

and has encouraged supporters

to attend this morning's hearing.

- You can bet that hearing will be packed

with officers in blue and all of Officer Wilson's family.

[elevator dings]

- Some of this stuff just becomes a circus.

- Mm-hmm.

- And it's peoples' lives. - Mm-hmm.

- I cried for the mother this morning.

It was a rough weekend.

The FOP was ringing her phone off the hook.

and she had to shut her phone down.

She had to pull her Facebook down,

because she didn't want people posting stuff on her page.

- All ID'd, all ID'd.

- Breaking news from Center City, Philadelphia.

- Two men who are accused in this case--

they just pleaded guilty

a few minutes ago in exchange

for the death penalty being taken off the table.

The District Attorney spoke for five minutes,

telling the court why he decided to offer a deal

for life without parole plus 50 to 100 years.

The judge at one point addressed the court

saying it is up to the District Attorney alone

whether or not to pursue the death penalty.

Now we're expecting to hear from the family.

- Well, my view is that

I thought it should have happened.

- Well, he indicated that there were people

calling the two mothers of Robert Wilson's children

to persuade them to take a certain route.

And the D.A. felt it was being driven by the FOP.

- He didn't say individual members.

Because if we were talking about individual members,

then he was--he would have outlined who they were,

then that comes more under my purview.

The FOP does not work for me.

- I did call them.

The FOP said that they would have to do what they had to do.

Anybody else?

[uneasy music]

- I'm disgusted.

This in no way is what my brother deserved.

He upheld honor, integrity.

I can't say the same

for this D.A.'s office.

It's truly a mockery.

And it makes me feel as though

I didn't do my job as his sister.

It's completely unfair.

It's completely unfair.

- You seemed to kind of bristle at the idea

that Krasner was bringing his kids into it.

- Yeah, what do his kids have to do with any of it?

What about the family? What about me?

What about all the other officers

in years to come that say, "You know what,

this District Attorney is not gonna have my back"?

Why work that hard? Why do anything?

That's how some people might think.

- Just double-check.

- Yes.

- So the family seems upset

from the way the entire thing was handled.

They say they haven't heard from you since March.

- You may have noticed that the mothers of the children

were not there.

Anybody think about why that might be?

- Did you ask them not to be there?

- No, they were not asked not to be there.

The mothers of the children did not want to be there,

because of the amount of pressure

that is being improperly applied

and has been improperly applied against them for a long time.

They are the family.

Those concerns are continuing right now.

More than that, I will not say,

because the fact is, if things get bad enough,

I may have to take legal action around that.

- Is that against the FOP?

- No comment.

- The FOP went out of their way to create this gap

between the police and this office.

They were looking for opportunities to do it.

They seized on this case.

They know that these two guys

are gonna spend the rest of their lives in jail.

They're never getting out. They have no chance to get out.

They've given up their right to appeal.

- All right. Thank you very much.

- For the people in the police department, let's be real.

There's still trust issues that have to be worked on.

I think all of us have to look for the moments

and opportunities where we can build relationships,

and I think that only happens over time.

- Lisa, we appreciate you

for everything that you've shown most of us,

and all your years of expertise

and helping us grow in the District Attorney's Office.

We want to wish you the best of luck.

- This has been my home,

and I always told everyone I had the greatest job.

This unit will go on, and it goes on 'cause of you guys.

I think you keep your head down and focus on

what you need to do as prosecutors for the city.

I appreciate all you guys, and it's been great.

Thank you.


I resigned, which was very sad for me.

I thought I would always be here.

I started in '95.

I think the decision was pretty much made for me

when I was removed as the chief of the unit,

because I'd been, definitely, very sidelined.

[distant chatter]

- I'll take your candy. - You want this?

- Yes. - The jar?

- Yes. - Okay.

The stories that come out of our criminal justice center

about how we are prosecuting cases is shameful.

It's hard to look a victim in the eye and say,

"Sorry I didn't try my best."

But I do feel like that's-- that's acceptable now.

We can't hire people who don't believe in jails,

who don't believe in convicting a person.

Like, that's not who should be a prosecutor.

It's a social experiment at this point,

and shame for the citizens of Philadelphia

if it doesn't work out.

[rock music]

♪ There I was completely wasted ♪

♪ Out of work and down

♪ All inside it's so frustrating ♪

♪ As I drift from town to town ♪

♪ Feel as though nobody cares if I live or die ♪

♪ So I might as well begin to put some action in my life ♪

♪ Breaking the law, breaking the law ♪

♪ Breaking the law, breaking the law ♪

[cheers and applause]

announcer: Next time, on "Philly D.A."...

Krasner: We are here to talk about mass supervision,

the evil twin of mass incarceration.

- A judge has a ridiculous amount of power.

- The judges are this wall of resistance.

- I don't wanna put you in jail.

You can only put you in jail.

- I'm on probation 'til 2027.

Arrest warrant warning.

I don't know if I'm going back to work,

or if I'm gonna be going back to jail.

announcer: "Philly D.A.," on PBS.

[upbeat music]

- If you don't have someone there telling the story,

you're gonna lose the narrative.

- Well, you know, there's two sides to this.

I'm gonna stand up so that you can actually

see the merchandise, as they say.

- Things are unfolding right now.

Krasner: The challenge is for me

saying the true thing that nobody else will say.



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