Citing Poor Conviction Rate, New Phila. Prosecutor Plans Shake-Up


Philadelphia District Attorney-elect Seth Williams he plans to shake up thoroughly how crime is prosecuted in the city, with the goal of cracking down on the most violent and gun-prone criminals. Williams said he was “saddened as a Philadelphian” by an Inquirer investigative series reporting that the city had the highest violent-crime rate among big cities – and the nation’s lowest felony conviction rate. The series found the District Attorney’s Office was winning a felony conviction in only one in five cases, less than half the national average.

“Unquestionably, we have to do a much better job,” Williams said. He said the newspaper’s reporting this month “vindicated and validated what I’ve been saying for the last five years.” Williams, an assistant district attorney for 10 years, has been a longtime critic of District Attorney Lynne Abraham. He has cited a federal study of conviction rates in 39 large urban counties that ranked Philadelphia last in two consecutive reports. The Inquirer analyzed 31,000 criminal cases from 2006 to 2008, finding that Philadelphia defendants walk free on all charges in nearly two-thirds of violent-crime cases.

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