A federal judge on Monday condemned the conduct of Philadelphia District Attorney Larry Krasner and his office, going so far as to impose penalties against Krasner personally and his assistant prosecutors, saying the ‘flagrant’ and ‘exceptional’ conduct warranted the action. unusual.
In his 28-page brief noticeU.S. District Judge Mitchell S. Goldberg refrained from imposing financial penalties, saying those penalties would be borne only by the city’s taxpayers.
Judge Goldberg, however, demanded that Krasner draft and personally deliver written apologies to four surviving victims of Robert Wharton’s murders of Ferne and Bradley Hart in the East Mount Airy section of the city. Wharton was found guilty of strangling Bradley, drowning Ferne in a bathtub and leaving the couple’s 7-month-old daughter, Lisa Hart, to die in her crib one freezing January morning in 1984.
Krasner’s apology will also have to be filed in the Federal Court docket, making it a public record.
Wharton was found guilty of these crimes and sentenced to death. Years later, however, Wharton asserted that his death sentence should be overturned because his lawyers provided ineffective advice during the sentencing phase.
Krasner’s team took up Wharton’s cause and sought to have the death sentence overturned, and the case has gone through numerous iterations in state and federal courts in recent years.
In Goldberg’s opinion on Monday, he claimed the DAO was meant to provide the court with a balanced view of the facts – evidence that supported Wharton’s claim of ineffectiveness (known as mitigating evidence), but also evidence that did not help Wharton (known as inculpatory evidence). evidence).
In particular, the judge denounced the DAO and the lawyers who worked on the case for failing to tell the court that Wharton had briefly escaped from police custody, only to be shot and apprehended on a staircase in the town hall by a sheriff.
“The Legal Division Supervisor and the Assistant Supervisor, both experienced attorneys, testified that they recommended granting Wharton’s habeas motion without knowing or attempting to know that Wharton had escaped from a courtroom. ‘City Hall audience.’
Goldberg then went on to say that when he asked one of the DAO’s attorneys how the office could submit a petition claiming it had “performed a ‘careful and independent review’ while not knowing about the escape of Wharton, [the attorney] replied that she could not “answer that question for the Court”.
Although the evidentiary issues clearly infuriated Goldberg, his opinion showed he was even more furious that the DAO’s office had not told the truth when he told the judge that his willingness to grant the sentence of death “had been made” following… a communication with the family of the victims.[.]'”
“[T]his statement gave the impression that the Agency had spoken to the family before making the decision to transfer and that the family agreed with the decision or did not oppose it. In fact, the only communication was to notify a single family member that the Bureau was considering conceding,” Goldberg wrote.
“None of the family members,” including Hart, the sole surviving victim, “supported the Bureau’s decision to concede, and several expressed shock and outrage that the district attorney’s office had suggested otherwise. While the Court declines to sanction the signing attorney, no similar rationale excuses the District Attorney’s Office as a whole for so negligently relying on its communications with the victims’ family in support of its all-encompassing concession. simultaneously making only a superficial effort to contact them and no effort to consider their perspective,” Goldberg continued.
“The Legal Division supervisor could provide no rationale as to why the communication with the victim survivor and her family was treated in this manner, other than to say that the communication with the victim was not responsibility and that the Bureau made an “error”.
In deciding on a penalty, Goldberg said he was guided by federal law on the rights of victims of crime.
Goldberg said that because Krasner “approved and implemented internal procedures that created the need for this sanction, and the district attorney had sole and ultimate authority to order that the misleading grant notice be filed , the apology will come from the district attorney, Lawrence Krasner, personally.
The request for comment to Krasner’s office was not immediately returned.
Goldberg’s exposure of Krasner’s office comes just two months after a Pennsylvania Supreme Court justice took the unusual step of filing a special concurring opinion – the sole purpose of which was to criticize Krasner and his aides in the lawsuit. the DAO of a policeman.
In this case, Judge Kevin M. Dougherty alleged that Krasner and his office may have abused the grand jury process when he “[failed] provide the grand jury with all relevant legal definitions[.]Judge Dougherty also alleged that the DAO tried – successfully – to deny a preliminary hearing to the officer who was the defendant in the case.
Both admonishments are sure to get the attention of Republicans in Harrisburg, who took the first steps to impeach Krasner — sometimes hailed as the most progressive district attorney in the nation — in June.
Just last week, Krasner said he would not follow any of the steps in the impeachment process, which is only in the investigation phase at the moment, saying he would not comply. to a subpoena issued by the House of Representatives committee.