Philadelphia District Attorney Larry Krasner has taken steps or signaled a willingness to overturn more than one-third of the death sentences for the 45 Philadelphia murderers on death row, the Philadelphia Inquirer reports. Krasner’s office has cited varying reasons, at times agreeing that defendants had ineffective lawyers or should have been found intellectually disabled and ineligible for the death penalty. Krasner, a former criminal defense attorney, made clear while running for office his opposition to capital punishment. “I will never seek the death penalty — ever,” he said in a 2017 campaign video. “The DA’s office is not required to do it and there’s no good reason to do it. It costs a fortune. We don’t execute anyone anyway, and Philadelphia does not have to remain the only city in the Northeast that still has the death penalty.”
His efforts to reverse death sentences in years-old convictions have raised concerns among law enforcement officials and victims’ advocates about whether his office has been transparent with victims’ families. They have brought pushback from those who say Krasner is asking courts to undo punishments decided by juries. A former ranking Philadelphia prosecutor now working for the state Attorney General said letting new district attorneys invoke “prosecutorial discretion” to overturn past verdicts and decisions could lead to “chaos” in the courts. Other so-called progressive district attorneys in the 30 states with death penalty have taken similar stances. New St. Louis County, Mo., Prosecuting Attorney Wesley Bell, who vowed never to seek the death penalty, has agreed to halt his office’s opposition in the handful of death-row appeals that have arisen this year. In Harris County, Tx., once considered the “capital of capital punishment,” District Attorney Kim Ogg said she would seek the death penalty only in rare cases, such as killings of police officers.