A day after his inauguration, Philadelphia District Attorney Seth Williams announced a leadership team and created two new divisions, including one charged with evaluating the office’s performance and raising its paltry conviction rates, reports the Philadelphia Inquirer. Among his priorities are attacking violent crime and illegal guns, focusing on crime prevention, and making his office more open and accountable to the public.
Williams has promised to reform the charging unit, where prosecutors get their first look at a case, and to create a statistical analysis of the office’s performance. A federal study of conviction rates in large urban counties has ranked Philadelphia’s conviction rate last in two consecutive reports. Williams’ predecessor, Lynne Abraham, eschewed statistical analyses, saying, “You can’t do justice by numbers.” Williams agreed, but said there must be a way to measure the success and failure of the office. The new performance and policy division will be headed by Sarah Hart, a veteran prosecutor who served as the director of the National Institute of Justice from 2001 to 2005. Under Abraham, Williams said the charging unit “was seen as a place you were sent to, like Siberia, if you did something wrong.”