D.A. blames judges for conviction rates

    Philadelphia District Attorney Lynn Abraham says judges are to blame for the city having the nation’s lowest conviction rate for violent crime.

    Philadelphia District Attorney Lynn Abraham says judges are to blame for the city having the nation’s lowest conviction rate for violent crime. Members of the private defense bar say the causes are much more complicated. Abraham responded to questions about a recent Philadelphia Inquirer series detailing failings of the city’s criminal justice system.

    Listen:
    [audio: 091216spcourt.mp3]

    The newspaper analysis found about 2/3 of violent offenders get off scot-free.

    District Attorney Lynn Abraham says this has nothing to do with her office.

    Abraham: The courts are the ones who throw cases out because police officers are in another courtroom. The courts are the ones who give out lenient sentences. The courts are the ones who make up their own rules.

    But members of the private bar say the issue is more complicated. Paul Hetznecker is a criminal defense attorney. Hetznecker says in other jurisdictions, more investigation happens early on, leading to dismissals or reductions in charges. But he says Philadelphia is different.

    Hetznecker: Often times cases get overcharged and should not be charged at the level they are charged at. They should be charged as misdemeanors as opposed to felonies, or certain felonies as opposed to others and certainly that is a longstanding criticism of the district attorney’s office.

    Meanwhile, U.S. Senator Arlen Specter says a Senate Panel will investigate why Philadelphia has the nation’s lowest conviction rate for violent crimes.

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