Philadelphia District Attorney Lynne Abraham, 64, is the city’s longest-serving district attorney in 80 years, is running amid an upsurge in gun-related homicides and criticism that her office cannot seem to improve the rate of dismissal of felony arrests, the Philadelpahia Inquirer reports. Abraham’s opponent in the May 17 Democratic primary, former assistant prosecutor Seth Williams, blames her management for cases that fell through the cracks and says she is not aggressive enough in fighting gun traffickers.
“You can take all of those numbers and stick them in your ear,” Abraham said. “They don’t mean a thing. I don’t care a fig about statistics. They only come up in elections.” More than half of all felony arrests in the city have been dismissed or withdrawn in court over the last three years. Williams argues that the failure rate is so high because prosecutors are assigned on an ad-hoc basis. He wants prosecutors grouped along neighborhood lines so the same people handle a single case from start to finish. Figures about dismissal are misleading, Abraham said, because they do not reflect witnesses who recant, prosecutions withdrawn after further investigation clears a defendant, gun cases dismissed because they are transferred to federal court, or cases downgraded to misdemeanors.
Williams has been endorsed by the Fraternal Order of Police. “To be honest with you, we don’t see where the quality of life has gotten better over the last 15 years,” said Bobby Eddis, president of the union. “Lynne Abraham is a good woman, but there needs to be a change from time to time. Let’s have a new look.”