Independent Lens


Part 1 | Philly D.A. | Episode 1

Civil rights champion Larry Krasner defies precedent with a landslide win to become Philadelphia’s District Attorney. Pledging sweeping reform, the new top prosecutor in America’s most incarcerated city fires 31 resistant attorneys, alienating many he needs on his side to enact change. As the staff reels, his team uncovers a secret that shakes the police department.

AIRED: April 20, 2021 | 0:58:59

[soft music]

[wind howls]

reporter: It is the election

reverberating across the country.

reporter: Voters in Philadelphia

have chosen a progressive

as their new district attorney.

reporter: Larry Krasner. This is a guy

who people said no way he could win.

- Put your left hand on the Bible,

raise your right hand.

It's time to swear you in.

reporter: He's never held the office of prosecutor

or been a prosecutor.

reporter: Krasner promises big changes

to the city's justice system.

reporter: Do police officers have a reason to worry

about Krasner becoming D.A.?

- This may be a major historical turning point

for the city of Philadelphia.


[car horn honks]

[scanner beeps]

- Is there a way we could find out every--

every pending...

marijuana possession case?

Is this every pending marijuana possession case?

- No. - That's just--

- That is just seven days' worth of arrests.

- But why the police picked up 51 people for possession

of a small amount of marijuana in a week remains to be seen.

- Which is crazy. - [bleep].

- Right. - I mean,

any pending case involving this nonsense,

I think we should be dropping.

Why do we care whether it's 30 grams

or it's 60 grams, honestly?

- Just, that's what the statute says.

- I, frankly, think we should reject possession

of marijuana for larger than 30-gram amounts,

which is only slightly over an ounce.

- Right now, for coke and crack, it's two grams.

- What if we were simply to double it?

Four grams or, say, five grams?

Anyway, that ridiculous nonsense is gone.

- Can we have the exact same conversation

about prostitution?

- We want to start declining prosecution

on prostitutes and johns.

- Right now, in the state,

it's, like, three to one the seller is arrested

and prosecuted compared to the buyer of sex

and the punishments are very disproportional.

- Undercover police are also having sex with the prostitutes

before they arrest them.

- To me, it's not that tough a call

that we're not gonna prosecute sex workers.

Does anybody think that's a tough call?

- No. - No.

- The thing we have to do is we have to avoid

falling into this pit of how government behaves,

which is a pit of having meetings

to talk about naming a committee

to think about having a series of meetings.

We're here because we're different than that.

- A lot of the entrenched power in the city

around these issues

believes in things based on ideas they formed

25 years ago, right? - Mm-hmm.

- And they are going to attack us for doing different things.

And then we make decisions which we have to own

for better or worse.

[suspenseful music]

Maurice: First of all, let me just record this,

if you don't mind? Krasner: I don't mind.

- Hey, my name is Maurice and I'm here

with Mr. Larry... - Larry Krasner.

- Larry Krasner.

He is running for District of--

- Attorney. - Attorney.

So I have one question for him.

My question is what is he gonna do

to actually cause some change here in Philadelphia?

- We're gonna stop spending money on stupid

and start spending it on smart.

Stupid is putting everybody you can find into jail,

and smart is putting the money back into schools.

It's also putting it into job training,

putting it into economic development

because people with jobs don't commit crimes.

We got more people in jail

than any other country in the world

and we still call ourselves the land of freedom.

We gotta go a different direction.

It's happening all over the country,

it needs to happen here.

- All right, I'ma tell you something.

That right there was the perfect answer.

- Well, thank you. - I appreciate everything

you're doing, I need you to keep doing it.

And I think it's gonna happen for you, all right?

- Well, it's not the perfect answer

in every neighborhood with every person.

- Exactly. - But you and I see eye to eye

on this. - [laughs]

Hey, Larry, Larry, I like you. - All right, great to meet you.

- Tell 10 people to vote for Larry.

- All right. I got it, I got it.

- When he told me he was running for D.A.,

I was laughing so hard, I almost crashed.

Literally almost crashed the car.

I basically said, "You're running for what?"

[punk music]

- It was funny when he first said he was gonna run.

It seems a little bit ridiculous.

- I was like, "What?"

[laughs] "You?"

- Larry Krasner has been a civil rights attorney

for three decades and has defended Black Lives Matter,

Occupy Philadelphia, and Act Up.

Hayes: Larry Krasner is the last person in the world

you would think would be the prosecutor

of one of the biggest cities in America.

- My name is Larry Krasner. I'm the attorney

for John Sellers in this civil matter.

Hayes: He is the kind of guy

who shows up on the evening news

because he's the lawyer for the anarchists

that got arrested protesting.

- The police chief says his troops are on full alert

just in case the protesters try to disrupt the convention.

- If what he's talking about is people

who want to make signs

and exercise civil disobedience, then bring it on.

- He has sued the Philadelphia Police Department

some 75 times.


Krasner: My client was viciously beaten on video.

This D.A.'s office prosecuted him, not those officers.

Moss-Coane: He has spent his career in opposition

to the District Attorney's Office.

- This is a district attorney

who is effectively in bed with law enforcement

and will do everything in her power

to cover for them when they do the wrong thing.

Moss-Coane: This is not the typical resume of someone

who wants to be district attorney of Philadelphia

or any city, for that matter.

DiClaudio: Prosecutor's a special mentality.

Law and order.

To want to be a prosecutor,

almost by nature, you're conservative.

Defense attorneys for Occupy Philadelphia

don't become prosecutors.


- I said, "You'll be D.A. when David Duke's

the head of the ACLU."

reporter: Obviously, this individual will not be

the next district attorney of Philadelphia.

Moss-Coane: But these are not normal times.


- Philadelphia District Attorney Seth Williams,

is sentenced to five years in prison

after pleading guilty to accepting a bribe.

Shea: It was a fairly big shock.

On the other hand, we're in Philadelphia.

Indicted elected officials are not a big shock.

reporter: He also admitted to defrauding a nursing home

caring for his ill mother.

- I expected some of the bribery and corruption stuff.

The stuff about the nursing home fraud

was really disturbing.

Shea: He, of course, wasn't gonna run again,

so that opened up an entirely new field.


- Welcome to today's District Attorney Candidate Forum

featuring six of the seven Democrats

running for Philadelphia District Attorney

in the upcoming May 16th Pennsylvania primary.

- When we all were in the D.A.'s office doing reforms

and doing the right thing, Mr. Krasner

was making a lot of money as a criminal defense attorney

and sitting on the sideline and complaining

and that doesn't make you a reformer, that makes you

a criminal defense attorney with a lot of money.

- Mr. O'Neill, when I started my career,

was in kindergarten.

I am a career civil rights lawyer.

I'm the only attorney in the history of this city

to have been intimately involved

in overturning 800 convictions by corrupt police officers,

convictions gained by the very office that he worked for.



So I'll tell you right now.

You want to know how we end a culture?

A culture of malicious prosecution,

recklessness about the facts?

We get the right people. That's how we do it.


[upbeat music]

Sanchez: Through the campaign, we just saw people

that had been traditionally disengaged getting engaged.

- This guy's gonna seek out justice

and I got a chance to talk to the guy,

and it was awesome.

man: Krasner is the person to go in,

clean house,

rock the boat, blow [bleep] up.

- We need to end mass incarceration.

We gotta get away from cash bail

'cause there are some people who just can't pay bail.

- Bail, exactly. - And then, of course,

those people just end up pleading guilty

whether they're guilty or not. - Exactly.

- I don't know why you're prosecuting sex workers.

I mean, that doesn't make any sense to me.

I will not seek the death penalty.


- He speaks the language of the movement

and that was what I really appreciated.

Krasner: When you make a decision

about putting someone in jail

at $42,000 a year,

you ponder the consequences

in terms of that money not being in the schools.

Not being in drug treatment. Not being in job training.

All of which are actually proven to stop crime.

Jones: The message started spreading in barbershops,

in backyards,

in church basements, through the jails,

and it really became this groundswell.

It's invaluable for people to understand

how much directly-impacted people played

in mobilizing for Larry Krasner.

- The D.A. election is more important

than the presidential election in our community.

Krasner: There is a racist aspect

to the system that's undeniable.

We got a higher rate of incarceration

for people of color than there was

in South Africa during apartheid.

It's absurd.

- It helped that he was a white man

saying this, right?

Who can call out people

more than a privileged white man?

- Pleasure working with you.

Krasner: This is a movement that is tired

of seeing a system that has picked on poor people,

primarily Black and brown people.

[crowd chanting] I believe that we will win.

I believe that we will win. I believe that we will win.

I believe that we will win.

[line ringing]

- Hi, we want to see if you are supporting Larry.

- It is a very close race ma'am,

which is why I'm calling.

- Are you gonna support Larry, by chance?

- Thank you very much.

Krasner: I absolutely could have continued being

a defense and civil rights attorney until I retired.

- The location for Saturday's canvas has changed to--

Krasner: But this is a chance to try to bring about

real change in a system that needs it.

When I was a young public defender,

I had a client, a homeless person,

looking at one to two years in jail

because it's his third or fourth or fifth retail theft.

And last time, it was Eveready batteries

and this time it's food, right?

One to two years in jail.

What I saw was a whole bunch of this,

"We told you not to this last time,"

as if that is an intelligent solution

to what is happening here, which is obviously

a, you know, a confluence of poverty,

mental health issues,

simple hunger.

- We gotta go, L.K.

- The policy was essentially, "Lock 'em up."

Lock more of 'em up.

Lock 'em up for longer.

That is what you saw for 30 years.

Day after day after day after day after day.

That's what you saw.

You hit 55, 56 years of age

and you see that the whole time,

the system is getting worse.

Mass incarceration is winning.

- We gotta go.

- The D.A. is the most powerful player

in the criminal justice system

and the District Attorney's Office broke the system.

So I think the D.A. might be able to fix it.

[old-time music]

reporter: In Philadelphia,

justice rests on the shoulders of a man.

The district attorney,

the chief law enforcement officer of the community.

His primary responsibility

is to protect law-abiding citizens

in society's endless war against crime.

His decisions affect the lives of millions of people.

Tripp: The role of an elected district attorney

is one of the most powerful in politics.

Hands down.

[siren blares]


The police arrest someone.

The police then recommend charges to the prosecutor.

Both whether you charge and what you charge.

Both are significant and important decisions,

and that discretion doesn't rest in the law.

That discretion rests with prosecutors.

- Is this first-degree murder or second-degree murder?

Is that 30 years in prison or 15?

If the D.A. says, "I don't care, I'm dropping it,"

it's dropped.

Tripp: There's only one district attorney.

And that person has a blank check to create policies

that affect tens of thousands of individuals every year.

man: Well, this guy really shouldn't be

out on bail at all.

Washington: From the late '70s, early '80s,

up until the early decades of the 21st century,

the incarceration rate in Philadelphia

went through the roof.

Rudovsky: Philadelphia does have its own distinct history

of very aggressive prosecutors

on the promise that the tougher we are

and the more people we lock up,

and the longer we lock them up, the safer we'll be.

- When you're talking about jury selection,

that is probably the single most important part of a case.

You don't want smart people.

They take those words "reasonable doubt"

and they're actually trying to think about them.

You want people to come in there and say,

"Yep, she said he did it, he did it."

And that's what you want.

- People have made political careers

by starting as prosecutors, "I'm tough on crime,

"I'm the toughest person on the block,

I lock up more people than anybody else."

And that played very well for many years.

- But even those two--

Rudovsky: I started when the prosecutors were tough,

but nowhere near what we saw later with Lynne Abraham.

- My desire is not only

for longer periods of incarceration

and for a wedge to be jammed in the revolving door.

Temin: In order to keep a job in her office,

you had to go for the jugular in every single case.

DiClaudio: You wanted to win,

you wanted to impress your bosses,

and if you lose every case, you're not gonna get promoted.

- How many cells do you need to alleviate overcrowding?

- If we can double cell

our present prison facilities,

we would have 5,400 spaces.

- We had a crime problem.

There's no denying that.

But when crime rates started going down,

the rates of incarceration continued to rise.

So in Pennsylvania, they built

nine new prisons in the 1990s.

Pfaff: During that time, the total number of people

charged with felony cases, which is the kind

of sentence that exposes you to real prison time,

grew dramatically.

And that's a decision prosecutors made

entirely on their own.

Abraham: Those offenders who are pillaging the city

and holding it hostage

have a great deal to be worried about.

I don't like anything about Larry Krasner.

"Mass incarceration.

We're gonna turn out the jails."

Well, good luck with that

when somebody hits your grandmother over the head.

All this business about-- that he talks about,

is not gonna make the city safer or better.

reporter: A career defense attorney is the front-runner

to become Philadelphia's next top prosecutor.

Civil rights attorney Larry Krasner

whipped a crowded field

to win the city's Democratic primary for district attorney.

reporter: Democratic billionaire investor,

George Soros, sent $1 1/2 million his way.

reporter: Krasner's resume and his campaign themes

have made him a hero to some, and a bum to others.

As Krasner's supporters celebrated his victory,

some chanted anti-police slogans for being shushed

by campaign staffers.

John McNesby of the Fraternal Order of Police

was characteristically blunt.

- They're the bottom feeders of the city

that was gathered all in one place.

- He's a radical and the mob that was with him

the night on election night was chanting, "Eff the Police."

- He's never been pro-law enforcement.

He's said that about us his whole career.

Krasner: There has not been prosecution

of police misconduct, police murder, police abuse

by this D.A.'s office for 30 years.

People who are too close and too cozy

with the Fraternal Order of Police.

Tripp: It's not just that he sued the cops 75 times.

It's while suing them, he repeatedly,

incessantly, consistently,

alleged that they were violent liars.

- My attitude about police is real simple.

I think when you wear a uniform, you come correct.

You take an oath, you have a duty, you come correct.

If you think this is "Romper Room"

for beating people up and stealing from them,

you're gonna have a problem with me.

- The FOP is very powerful

and they control a lot of people

and a lot of votes.

They look at Larry as someone

who's opposed to everything they stand for.

McNesby: Now that this guy has won the primary,

this lynch mob here has taken for granted

that they'll be able to do what they want to do

once he gets elected.

That being said, we're not out of the game yet.

reporter: Tonight, a big endorsement in the race

for Philadelphia District Attorney.

The Fraternal Order of Police

will support Republican nominee, Beth Grossman.

reporter: Grossman worked in the Philadelphia D.A.'s Office

for 21 years.

- This race is about experience and qualification.

- She has the support of law enforcement

and not just the Fraternal Order of Police,

but every law enforcement agency

in the Philadelphia area.

That's all people have to know.

- The D.A.'s office, I'm proud of my 21 years there.

He may think it's a corrupt organization.

I have dealt with victims from all walks of life,

including young children all the way to senior citizens.

Everybody deserves to be safe in their neighborhoods.

reporter: Days away from the election

and the most noteworthy race

here in Philadelphia, is the district attorney seat.

- Anarchy.

- His philosophy is almost to identify

with the defendant, which is not your role.

The people who you walk into court standing next to

are victims of crime.

- The way justice has been defined

by this District Attorney's Office has been,

how many convictions can we get and how many years?

- When you stand up and you fight for victims,

and you get people convicted,

and they're properly punished, that's justice.

I hate to tell you, but the role of the D.A.'s office is,

you have to prosecute.

- Crime is rampant here and it's a big concern

and people want safety, and they want law and order.

That's why they're going with Beth.

- And I just want to keep our city safe,

businesses safe, blocks safe.

- You better kick his ass. That's all I gotta say.


- People are really gung ho

for Larry to get in because they want a change.

- I'll do everything I can.

[phone rings]

- Hi, this is Samantha calling

from the Larry Krasner campaign.

- We are fundamentally different.

The D.A.'s Office is not a place

in which a social experiment

should be conducted at the cost of public safety.

- Let's not kid ourselves what is a radical social experiment.

Mass incarceration is a radical social experiment.

Say "yes" if you are ready

to start the end of mass incarceration.

all: Yes!

reporter: Just moments ago, Democrat Larry Krasner

defeated Republican Beth Grossman.

reporter: Larry Krasner

becomes Philadelphia District Attorney.

reporter: Larry Krasner was elected

in a landslide victory.


- They just called it.

- Is it over?

- Congratulations! - [chuckles]

- Yes, you're the D.A.! What? Yes!

[laughter] D.A.!

[overlapping chatter]

- All right, ba, ba, ba, mandate for a movement.

- Okay, all right. - All right.

- We got it. We got it.

Let's just go do it.

- No. No. No. No.



- I'm in! - Let's do it, baby.

- All right. - Ha, ha!

It's a [bleep] revolution.

- You want me to say that?

- No, no, no, no, no, no. [laughter]

[all chanting] Larry!


[all chanting] Larry!


[soft music]

- What comes next?

I'm just hoping for the new day.

- This experiment has to succeed.

- And we gotta do it.

And it's a lot easier to talk than to do.

- I think it'll be a disaster.

- I expect a lot of decent people

to put sale signs on their houses

and leave Philadelphia.

And it just becomes a lawless city.

Menos: Will the police and the judges agree

with how he wants to do things?

Or will they do everything they can to fight against him?

- There are people who don't want to see him

change anything.

Giampetro: The system doesn't bend as easy

as some people think it will.

The system will fight back.

McNesby: I seen a comment that he made yesterday,

"Who are the FOP?"

Once he takes office, he'll find out who we are.

Because he's not gonna be able to make any changes there

without going through the FOP.

Jones: Just stand on your word.

Stand on what you committed to doing.

And let the chips fall.

So what, you might not get reelected?

We're never gonna have this chance again.

- It was really exciting to hear everybody

chanting and smiling.

- You never know. - It's amazing, Larry.

- Change is possible. [chuckles]

- Change is possible. No joke.

- [chuckles]


reporter: Around the country, voters are electing

a different kind of district attorney.

reporter: Choosing to go with the progressive candidate,

signaling major criminal justice reforms.

reporter: Diverting people away

from the criminal justice system.

Also to hold police more accountable.

- We have to stop the nonsense and take back our communities.

Hudson: In the last few years,

you're seeing reform-minded prosecutors come into office.

Women of color, people of color,

come in to these incredibly powerful positions.

We have a mass incarceration problem

that's rooted in racism

and we need to rethink public safety.

[all chanting] Decarcerate Chicago.

- There's something criminally wrong

with the system.

This office no longer has the community trust.

- The energy is coming from the ground.

It's coming from the people who are impacted

by the over-policing of their communities,

police shootings, the higher sentencing,

generation after generation after generation.

And this progressive prosecutor movement is a response to that.

We are now redefining what a prosecutor should be.

- Members of the community

no longer have to be at the mercy

of the justice system.

We are the justice system.

- It's still a small group

compared to the almost 2,500 prosecutors

we have around the country, but it's happening.

In California, Chicago, Brooklyn,

Orlando, Florida, Baltimore.

And look at what's happening in Philadelphia.

The movement is rising.

Change is happening on a local level.

- [whistles]

[glass clanking]

- Remember, the rule is if you don't smile

when you see it, then you toss it.

- Hmm. I don't see you doing that.

- [chuckles] Okay.

- Most of these typewriters were my dad's.

Rau: Larry's dad wrote murder mysteries.

So when Larry became a criminal defense lawyer,

he was totally into it.

- It's kinda beautiful.

These are some of my dad's paperbacks

with the sensational covers of the era.

He has a recurring character,

a detective named Sam Birge who's kind of scruffy

and a whole lot smarter than people seem to think.

- Larry's middle name is Sam.

- All right.

- Uh, really busy.

Lot of travel.

- He's talking about emotion.

- [laughs]

[both laugh]

- I didn't understand that.

[both laugh]

- Come on.

Well, doesn't it feel exciting? 'Cause you've been

kind of studying that office for 30 years and coming home

and saying, "This is what they should do.

This is what they should do."

I mean, and now you get to do it.

- I mean, it's exciting.

- Don't shrug it off like it's no big deal.

It was kind of a landslide.

- You know, that's-- I did not expect that.

- And wasn't based on how charming you are.

I mean, not that you didn't--um...

you just laid out--

- What are you trying to say here?

[both laugh]

- My wife of 28 years said what?

- No, I mean, it was--you were talking issues is what I mean.

- Yeah, we were talking about that.

- You're capable of being charming.

- Thank you, baby. - [laughs]

- Thank you.

- But occasional reminders sometimes help.

[laughs] - Thank you again, baby.

- [laughs]

[horn honks]

[soft music]

- It's time to swear you in.

Raise your right hand. Are you ready?

- I'm ready. - I--

- I, Lawrence S. Krasner--

- Do solemnly swear--

- Do solemnly swear--

- That I will discharge the duties--

- That I will discharge the duties--

- Of the Office of the District Attorney

of the city of Philadelphia--

- Of the Office of the District Attorney

of the city of Philadelphia--

- With fidelity. - With fidelity.

- Congratulations.


[horn honks]

[elevator dings]

[elevator dings]

- Executive office is this way.

- Look at that.

- Oh, my God, looks amazing.

- I would expect a little better view.

- It's a good view if you like roofs.

- [laughs]

- But I think it would be good

at this very preliminary phase

to have people who share the mission

all over the building on all different floors

to watch what's going on, just hearing what's said,

in case people start to

have tire fires and barricades.

That would be bad, wouldn't it?

All right.

We have some important decisions to make

in the next couple days.

Things that we've discussed for long time.

[soft upbeat music]

- Naomi! What's up?

The D.A. was elected to change

the culture of the office.

- Howdy, folks.

- So Larry's bringing in

new people with different backgrounds;

activists, criminologists, defense attorneys.

- If you could just look right there for me.

- It's like we're a bunch of pirates invading a ship.

- Hi, how are you?

This is monumental.

The initial wave of the progressive D.A.

- [laughs]

It's insane. It's crazy.

I think about the criminal justice reform movement

as the next chapter of the Civil Rights movement.

It is so exciting to be a part of it.

- When I was asked

was I interested in coming from Texas

and doing this job for Larry, the gut reaction was yes.

It is incredibly important for the system as a whole

to do a better job.

- Sure. - Waiting is for suckers,

and I'm not trying to do that anymore.

We've been waiting collectively as a society for too long.

- You ready? Waxman: I did tell Larry

multiple times that there was no way in hell

that I was coming into the office.

Like, I was very emphatic.

But it's very difficult to negotiate with the Larry.

- Yeah?

- So that didn't work out,


- [laughs]

This job has the potential to impact

the entire criminal justice system from top to bottom.

- This month is the seventh-year anniversary

of my son's death.

Charles was murdered in a case of mistaken identity

here in Philadelphia.

And every anniversary of his death,

I try and do something wonderful

as opposed to being in the cemetery

and curling up the fetal possession in my bed.

So for me to be here to work on victim services

in my son's memory is awesome for me.

[crowd chattering]

- All right. [clears throat]

[crowd chattering]

- Thank you all for being here.

I understand that when you have someone

who has been known as a defense attorney

and a civil rights attorney, someone--

many of you have tried cases against for many years--

I understand that there's a certain level of uncertainty

and concern that goes with that.

Change is not easy.

It's not easy for anyone,

but sometimes change is good.

And sometimes, change is necessary.

So yes, you're going to be hearing some things

that may be a little bit different

than how things have been done,

but there is no doubt in my mind

that this office can be and will be the most modern,

the most forward-thinking District Attorney's Office

in the United States.

You can be part of that.

There's been a lot of ego-driven people in politics

for a long time

who have done things that benefited themselves

and their careers moving forward.

I don't want to run for anything else.

Nothing. I'm 56 years old.

I've been in the system for 30 years.

There's some things I would like to help change

and then I wanna go to a beach chair,

and that is exactly and only what I have in mind.

But that does give me, and I think us as a team,

the freedom to try to do things

that are really just about getting it right.

There is no way that I could possibly do that

without having your talent,

your hard work, your vision, your agreement on this mission.

There's absolutely no way

that I could do any part of that without you.

Thank you very much.



reporter: A blizzard warning has been

issued in Philadelphia.

6 to 10 inches of snow are expected.

All city government offices are closed.

reporter: Philadelphia's new D.A., Larry Krasner,

is on record as being against mass incarceration,

but he is apparently okay with mass firings.

reporter: Dozens of people employed by

the District Attorney's Office

shown the door today.

reporter: A mass dismissal was feared since election night.

They just were not quite sure when that day would come.

reporter: File boxes just kept rolling

out of the D.A.'s Office.

The purge was underway.

reporter: Dozens turned out into the cold.

reporter: And let go without any explanation.

Sax: It was the most horrific thing.

Dedicated, honest, hardworking 20- and 10-

and 30-year assistant D.A.s

who were told on a snow day to come in

and then escorted to their desk

and then escorted out like criminals.

Many of those firings-- not all, but many of them,

were absolutely personal and vindictive.

People who had a case against Larry Krasner

or in front of his wife,

the Honorable Judge Lisa Rau.

Waxman: We dismissed all those people on Friday

and we just waited way too long

to have Larry out there explaining it.

Prabhakaran: There's a lot of uneasiness.

You know, they called it, like, "the snow day massacre."

All kinds of nicknames.

- By letting it bleed over the weekend,

it allowed critics to define the narrative.

And if I could do it all over again,

we would've held a press conference

at the end of the day on Friday.

- I would be happy

to address any questions that you may have.

- We were elected based upon certain ideas

and one of the ideas was that we would bring

about culture change.

And what that means is you have to see whether

the people who are in the office

are consistent with the mission.

- How did they not fit the mission?

- For some, there may be a record

of ethical activity that is questionable.

For others, there may be a lack of diligence.

Other may have an ideology so molded by the past

that it's inconsistent with going a different direction.

The coach gets to pick the team.

That is not only my opinion, that's the law.

Harvey: I'm one of the few survivors

that haven't been fired

or removed from their supervisory roles.

I have to go to a meeting. Can I give you this?

That's my daughter. Okay, I'll call you.

- Bye.

Harvey: I spent most of my career in the D.A.'s office

in the juvenile unit.

It was very collegiate. It was very much like

being in a dorm room in college, right?

Because you're all kind of

here together, you're working for this common purpose

of helping the citizens of Philadelphia.

So--but you're also-- it was nice, it's--

you know, you can walk into anyone's office,

ask, "How do I do this motion?"

You know, "Did you ever have this problem before?"

"What's this judge like?"

And everyone's always there to help you.

Now, almost everybody's gone.

And the fact that I was on 18, I was, like,

"I don't know 3/4 of these people's names."

So that's kind of sad

to someone who's been here 20 years.

[soft music]

- Come on. You hungry?

[dog whines]

Lee: When I was in law school,

I would never have been a prosecutor.

Not on my life.

But I made a deliberate choice to come because this office

doesn't have a lot of people of color

and this is a place where people of color should dominate

because we dominate the courtroom

in every other aspect.

- Oh. [chuckles]

Come on, lift up that big old apple head.

Want to try?

Big old apple head.

[baby coos] Yeah, yeah, yeah.


Ooh, it's exciting!

- What's up, buddy?

As a person of color,

I question the law a lot more because it said at one point,

I was 3/5ths a person

and it said at another point

you're allowed to tell me not to sit there,

and it says right now, a police officer can shoot me

and it'll probably be justified.

So as much as I respect the law and have a duty to uphold it,

it doesn't mean it's a static thing.

Hey. Hey.

There's a smile. - Oh!

Lee: People in privilege say, "Well, it's the law,"

and I'm like "No, man." The law has to change.

And the faster it changes, the better off we'll be.

Winston. Oh, whoa, whoa, whoa, whoa.

[baby coos] - [laughs]

I'd rather do this work

so he can walk around more comfortable and safe.

I want him to read about racism

and not live through it.

[car horn honks]

- Welcome. - Hello.

How are you?

- How many days have you been in now?

- Feels like four years.

- Yeah, time is different once you get in.

Every day you'll look at,

"This is what I said during the campaign,

but now, I have to walk it like I talk it."

And it is difficult.

What I guess we should be talking about

is what your priorities are so that we can help.

- This administration is going to have a progressive,

and frankly, somewhat activist,

approach to criminal justice reform.

You're gonna see sentencing practice change substantially.

Bail practices change substantially.

Charging practices, diversion practice change substantially.

You're not gonna see slow, incremental change.

You're going to see quicker, deeper change going on.

- I think if we chip away on two big fronts,

the bail population and reform in probation,

and the way we treat people on probation,

I think we can make a huge impact on mass incarceration.

- I'm in.

- We're gonna win the Super Bowl.

And get rid of cash bail.

- You know what? - All in the same years.


- All about the Super Bowl.

[soft upbeat music]

Jones: Can I have a withdrawal slip, please?

Bail money.

We're bailing out three people.

So we'll go post bail for those three gentlemen

first thing in the morning,

then we go up to the jail

and wait for them to be released

and get them home with their families.

We bail people out to kind of shame the system.

Like, why are you holding poor people?

'Cause you know, the bail disproportionately impacts

poor people or people of color.

A poor person will sit there for two years

waiting for the outcome of his case,

where people like Harvey Weinstein,

the world is no more safer

because he was able to purchase his freedom for $1 million.

[soft music]

[keys jingle]

We know that just sitting in jail

for as little as five days

creates all these kind of collateral consequence.

People lose their job,

their homes, sometimes their children.

That's them.

I'm Reuben, man.

Our organization bailed y'all out.

What we gonna do, we're gonna throw y'all in the van.

[reverse beeping]

All right, gentlemen.

This has $20 on it for each of y'all.

Y'all can get home.

Y'all got our contact info.

When you figure out what you need next

that we can help you with, hit us up.

- Thank you.

- Before we came out, they were saying

y'all was outside waiting for us.

We thought it was a joke.

- Yeah, I ain't know what they was talking about.

- That was a blessing.

- This will be 31 days today.

If this wouldn't occur,

I didn't know how long I was gonna sit.

But I know I would've had to sit another, what, month again

'cause that was my next court date.

So I mean, that'd been another 30 on top of the 30

and then probably another 30.

And I couldn't get my bail paid, so...

- How much was your bail? - $1,500.

10%, 160.

- My bail was only $500.

- I was sittin' eight months.

- How much was your bail? - $12,000.

10%, $1,200. And some change.

My folks ain't-- they ain't got it

to be just throwing no bail money.

And at the same time I got arrested, my mom,

she was trying to help my sister gather some money

together to pay her bills she missed or whatnot.

But my sister wound up still getting evicted.

[soft music]

- What do we want? all: End cash bail!

- When do we want it? all: Now!

- What do we need? all: End cash bail!

- When do we need it? all: Now!

- That's it.


- We gotta understand that our elected officials

are responsible for what we want to happen

and that's to end cash bail.

We will not allow anyone put a price tag on our freedom.

- That's right.

- We've been through that chapter

in one time in history, and we will not relive it again.

We cannot. We cannot.

We want integrity in our courtrooms,

and we want to be heard.


- What do we want? all: End cash bail!

- What do we need? all: End cash bail!

all: End cash bail!

- Make some noise, people!


Krasner: They didn't do a damn thing in this offis offe

in terms of changing these policies for 30 effing years.

We're gonna do a phased rollout of improvement

of bail practices for right now.

Phase one, let's see what we can do around SAM.

Small amounts of marijuana.

Sex work, retail theft,

and I think we can move quickly to a bail policy

recommending that there be no cash bail.

And tell them it's coming.

Lee: We're starting with a small list

of mainly nonviolent low-level offensives.

So our top charge is possession

with intent to deliver.

- Yeah, marijuana. Right here.

- Then DUI, retail theft, simple assault.

This list of 33 charges

accounts for 51% of all arrests.

- Within the office, we can make sure

we engage the old guard folks

and have them be a part of the team.

- We take all those people who are less than 10,000 bail

and turn them into--

into releases where it's appropriate.

- That's a dramatic shift.

- Pennsylvania is not gonna pass a law

requiring that cash not be part of bail.

That's never happening.

But what we can do at the local level

is that the district attorney can make recommendations

because D.A.s have a lot of discretion.

- We'll have to nitpick, because some things

that are low bail, the public despises.

One example, identity theft.

And that's gonna be what everybody's talking about.

- Everybody always talks in these terms

of, like, what the public thinks or doesn't think.

I'll tell you what the public's gonna think.

If they see a lot less people in jail

for dumb stuff, they're gonna think that's good.

- Bail reform is one of our big campaign promises

for the first year. We said we were gonna do it,

we're doing it. It's super important.

- We have not yet unveiled a major policy change

that is actually happening in the courtrooms

and in the system. This will be the first one.

And because it is the first one, it will be...big.

[car horn honks]

- We have been working at the D.A.'s Office

for a couple weeks

on trying to move in the direction

of a different way of addressing bail.

We're gonna be asking for no money bail

on a wide category of cases

that we consider to be nonserious

where they have been low amounts of bail in the past

and we're gonna be doing that in order to avoid

the problem of having people

who are in jail mostly 'cause they're poor.

I realize that there are probably a lot of people

in this room that, in a perfect world, I would go

and meet with individually to go to discuss this,

except we're actually trying to get things done.

And for those of you who are affected by it

or would like some input or you think I'm wrong,

please, call me.

Tell me off.

Give me better ideas.

Let us not stand

on the formality of meetings in two weeks

because otherwise we're gonna waste months,

and I don't want to do that.


Krasner: I'm not so perfect at retail politics.

Sitting and having a cup of coffee with politicians,

there is a good long-term strategy

to trying to get everybody you deal with to like you,

but it's at the cost of doing things

that really matter right away.

I think that, to some extent,

I have had a chip on my shoulder since I was young.

My dad was disabled in a significant way.

He was in a wheelchair for 25 years

and so it was food stamps,

Social Security disability payments, things like that.

[groans] There we go.

I saw him treated with disrespect.

I didn't like it.

I was really not a fan of bullies.

When I graduated law school, I told my wife

that I wanted to do civil rights

and I wanted to represent protesters.

I kind of felt like there was an obligation to stick up

for people who weren't being treated fairly.

I did have the sense

of how government treats powerless people

and how important is to rein it in.

No longer a crooked oath around here.


[soft upbeat music]

Waxman: In this kind of environment,

which is a high profile, intense,

high stakes environment, we're under tremendous scrutiny.

I'm not trying to give him,

like, say this, "Blah, blah, blah."

He doesn't like that.

It'll be a very big deal. Huge.

So press conference is at 3:00.

That's happening. - Okay.

We haven't finished the written policies.

- This is critical

because what we are going to announce today

are these policies and the first question is,

when you announce something, is, "Give us the details."

- I mean, look, I can take the draft back and finish it.

- We're gonna get up and say, "We're making the changes"?

- Let me see the document for a second.

- Yeah, I mean, that's what my concern is,

is that we can't get up and say, "We're announcing changes,

"but we can't actually give you the information

about it until tomorrow morning."

That--we-- - All right,

I mean, there's already issues that have to be edited here.

Everything is a presumption

and nothing here is 100% categorical.

Any other explanation of it will be politically untenable

and the press will eat us alive.

- This is meant to be the final edit of this policy.

Is that right? Larry?

Like, this is--

- Yep. - Okay.

We can do one of two things, I think.

We can have a press conference at 3:00 where this document,

in some form, is provided to the press.

If we are not ready to do those things,

then we need to postpone today's press conference.

- Just hold on. - So...

- Just hold on.

This press event is at 3:00. - Yes.

- It is 11:15. - Yeah.

- Why is it that these two cannot work

on the modifications to the draft I wrote over the weekend?

Why is it that we cannot have that ready by 3:00?

I mean, to be blunt, if you can't, I can.

- We would've worked on this and thought it out

and had meetings and done it all if we--

we didn't know that's what you wanted.


- I mean, you gave us this at 4:00 yesterday.

We're doing the best we can.

Which is not an excuse, we'll get it done.

- We just didn't understand that that's what we were

supposed to do, but now we will do it.

- Okay, if we can get all that done,

I think that's great. I just--we can't have

a press conference with no actual information

about where we're at. That's my concern.

Made public, like, that would be crazy.

- I hear you.

- Was there anything else, quickly?

- It's not "should," it should say "much."

- Okay. - The second paragraph

I didn't find anything wrong with.

[upbeat music]

- Oof.

[elevator dings]

[elevator dings]

- We will get started in about five seconds.

- This is imprisonment

for poverty.

And it is simply not fair.

We have identified certain types of cases

in which we believe that the District Attorney's Office

should recommend during the bail process,

to the judge who sets bail,

no money.

No money.

Let us be clear. This is a movement.

People put us here. They elected us.

Those are the people to whom we answer,

and all great changes come from movements.


McNesby: Larry Krasner, they're painting this guy

this guy as a savior.

Shoplifting, you can't be arrested for that.

He's legalizing marijuana.

He's just a danger to the city.

man: You're used to fighting the man.

What's it like being the man?

- It's really fun.

'Cause it's nice to have power instead of outrage.

Jones: Phase one of bail reform felt like a victory.

Nobody else in the system had done anything

other than pay lip service prior to that.

But that's not the totality of anything,

because ultimately, we want to end cash bail.

- You can join in the, uh...

- Larry Krasner. Right there.

- Yeah. - Larry.

Krasner: For 30 years, I beat my head against

the outside of the D.A.'s office, and I had some wins.

But I didn't get as much good done in those 30 years

as I can get done on the inside.

When the movement has a chance on the inside, go with it.

Sax: His change of culture is to actually destroy

the prosecutor's office in Philadelphia.

- I'm supposed be somewhere at 5:15.

- So we're done? - Well, we can revisit

that tomorrow. Thank you.

- Really?

- Wiped their F drives.

- Do we know when they were wiped?

- After October 2017.

- Hmm, that's interesting.

- Yep. - It was former employees.

Krasner: Anybody who has dealt with this office knows

that there are secrets.

We need to find out where the secrets are.

How long do we take to look for sensitive files

floor by floor, drawer by drawer?

- All right, this is all personnel files.

We don't need to worry about that.

This one's not personnel files.


- What is it?

- Files about police officers.

[intense music]

- This guy, yeah. This guy.

- Yeah, I remember that.

And this one's just labeled "Damaged Goods."

- You've gotta be kidding me.

- And this is literally just Do Not Call mailers for officers.

I don't even know what to do with this.

- Jesus.

- Ooh.


- See that one? - Yeah, I don't know him.

- I do.

Testifies all the time.

Now a detective.

reporter: A list of officers so troubled, prosecutors

will not call them to testify about their cases.

Corruption, child sex abuse, drunk driving, assault,

and that's just a partial list

of what they've been accused of.

- Do you want to hang out for a minute?

Enjoy the chaos that's about to erupt.

- Oh, my goodness.

announcer: This season on "Philly D.A."...

reporter: We have breaking news at this hour.

reporter: A Philadelphia police officer has been shot.

- This is a capital case. It deserves capital punishment.

- Not one cop is gonna tell you that he's on our team.

- Is there a public safety crisis in Philadelphia?

- They pulled the gun out and shot the victim

in the stomach and the head.

This was an assassination.

- We are here to talk about mass supervision,

the evil twin of mass incarceration.

man: Having done this for 30 years,

I don't like someone telling me what to do.

- I'm on probation until 2027.

Arrest warrant warning.

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

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

- A Black man has been shot by a police officer.

- You need to argue this and we need to prove it.

- My guys don't trust you as far as they can throw you.

What am I to tell them?

- I suggest you don't shoot unarmed people in the back.

man: You're the D.A. Your job is not

just to go after dirty cops.

- The police do their jobs. Lock everybody up.

And Krasner lets them out.

man: Who was D.A. when there were

dozens of people shot over the weekend?

- I was.

- The burden on Larry is to get people to believe

that this is gonna be better for all of us.

woman: We all need to get this man

out of the of the District Attorney's Office.

Krasner: If you're being told by people

in law enforcement that this D.A.'s Office

will not prosecute, you're being lied to.

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


  • ios
  • apple_tv
  • android
  • roku
  • firetv