To Philadelphia police and prosecutors, they were good gun pinches, says the Philadelphia Inquirer. In one case, police spotted two men in a car prowling a neighborhood, both wearing bandannas masking their faces up to their noses. After officers got the men out of their Pontiac, they found two handguns under the front seat. In another, officers tackled a man who pulled a handgun after they moved in to break up a suspected drug-sales operation. Police recovered a .45-caliber handgun.
Slam-dunk arrests? No. In both cases, Judge Paula Patrick ruled the police conduct unlawful and said prosecutors could not use the seized guns as evidence. That effectively doomed any chance at conviction. The District Attorney is appealing those decisions and two dozen more like them by the judge. What prosecutors find worrisome is that this pattern has emerged over the last year as Patrick has presided over Philadelphia Gun Court, a special tribunal founded in 2005 to combat the city’s unusually virulent gun culture. Among large U.S. cities, Philadelphia has the highest rates for gunpoint homicides, robberies, and assaults, FBI figures show. Since taking charge of Gun Court almost a year ago, prosecutors contend, Patrick has repeatedly misapplied the law on firearms possession, prompting a record number of appeals of her decisions.