Pennsylvania Chief Justice Ronald Castille, a former Philadelphia prosecutor, is ordering a comprehensive review of Philadelphia’s troubled criminal justice system in response to what he called “alarming and serious trends,” The Philadelphia Inquirer reports. Still Castille expressed skepticism about some of the findings of an Inquirer series that documented a falling conviction rate, growing witness intimidation, a massive number of fugitives, and a heavy proportion of dismissed and withdrawn cases.
He singled out the high number of robbery cases that collapse in Philadelphia’s lower Municipal Court. “That’s a huge question there,” he said. Castille complained about what he said were “tabloid” headlines of the Inquirer series and released a four-page memo that questioned some of the paper’s statistical findings. Nonetheless, Castille will order Philadelphia’s courts to hire outside experts, perhaps from a university or from the National Center for State Courts in Williamsburg, Va., to dig deeper into the paper’s statistical findings. Their task would be to “come in and analyze the raw numbers and point out problems.”