Former Philadelphia District Attorney Lynne Abraham, stung by reports that her office had consistently low conviction rates, defended her performance yesterday and criticized the rest of the city’s criminal justice system as riddled with “deeply troubling” problems. reports the Philadelphia Inquirer. Abraham, who left office in January after 18 years, cited widespread witness fear, a massive fugitive problem, a dysfunctional bail system, and the dismissal of thousands of cases annually with no ruling on the merits.
Speaking at a hearing of the U.S. Senate subcommittee on crime and drugs, Abraham faulted Philadelphia judges as being too lenient and too quick to toss out cases. She criticized defense lawyers for “gaming the system” through deliberate delays aimed at wearing down victims and witnesses. She blasted a bail system that allows fugitives to skip court with virtual impunity. And she faulted court clerks for shoddy record-keeping that has thwarted the city’s efforts to collect nearly $1 billion in forfeited bail. As she decried these failings, Abraham criticized the Inquirer for a series of stories on the courts that she said unfairly portrayed “a system in disarray, or worse, collapse.” Declared Abraham: “The criminal justice system of this city is not now, as has been almost hysterically proclaimed  a broken system.”