Byko: Would Krasner be Philly's second black DA?

Bykoblog17
Marcus Perez with his daughter Shannon and granddaughter Khylei. Perez is serving a life sentence although the judge in his case has said he made an error in advising him to take a plea deal -- something a pro-defendant DA such as Larry Krasner might address.

In a win shaped by reformist ideals and fueled by billionaire George Soros’ money, critic-of-the-prosecution Larry Krasner on Tuesday night was positioned to become Philadelphia’s second black DA, after Seth Williams.

What?

If Bill Clinton could be called the first black president, why not? Not just my opinion, it was voiced (in a way) by fiery African American attorney Michael Coard, who called Krasner the “blackest white guy I know.” 

Coard may have been referencing Krasner’s defense of Black Lives Matter and that explains why Asa Khalif, a leader of BLM Pennsylvania, worked hard to elect Krasner. It was a Big Win for BLM and a bitter defeat for the FOP, which backed former city managing director Rich Negrin.

As the Democratic nominee, Krasner is all-but-certain to beat Republican Beth Grossman in November’s general election because of the Democrats’ 7-to-1 registration edge.

Krasner’s nomination can be explained by Soros’ money, an anti-authoritarian movement spurred by President Trump, and the excited turnout  of Philadelphia’s progressive minority. 

I’ve read some liberals call it a “revolution.” Before we start shooting off fireworks, let’s look at the numbers.

Krasner cleaned the clocks of his six rivals, yes, amassing 38 percent of the vote to second-place finisher Joe Khan’s 20 percent.

But that was 38 percent of the 16 percent of registered Philadelphians who turned out to vote Tuesday. That means Krasner owns 6 percent of registered voters. That’s not a roaring mandate.

Surprising to me was Michael Untermeyer’s dismal fifth-place finish, given his early (and heavy) TV advertising, and Jack O’Neill’s truly awful sixth place, despite late TV ads and union support.

The progressives turned out their base while the others did not.

Krasner was not my preferred candidate because of his lack of prosecutorial experience and his pro-defendant orientation. That’s great for a defender, but troubling in a prosecutor.

He has characterized the DA’s office as “a place with a mad zeal for the highest charge, for the highest level of conviction, a culture than can find no flaw in police misconduct, that is drunk on the death penalty.”

The 300 lawyers working in the DA’s office at 3 South Penn Square must have loved hearing that.

Even more giddy than the progressives is a guy I know in Graterford, Marcus Perez.

In his case I see a glimmer of truth in Krasner’s remarks, and illustrates why I cannot be knee-jerk pro-prosecution.

I started writing about Perez, 46, in 2011 when I discovered he received a life sentence although the judge who offered him a plea deal assured him he would likely serve 17½ to 35 years. The judge’s assurances to Perez were “dead wrong,” as the judge, Theodore McKee, admitted to me.  McKee was Common Pleas then, now chief judge of U.S. Third Circuit Court of Appeals. He has a sterling reputation.   

He was mortified by his error and spoke to me freely, and will speak to anyone else.

When mistakes are made, there is a process for correcting them. It’s called the Post Conviction Relief Act.

Perez has a couple of things going him. First, the judge’s admission of error. Second, I discovered an unauthorized, highly irregular  change to the trial transcript was made four years after the trial by someone in the DA’s office. The change undercut Perez’s chances for an appeal.

Williams' response to these facts was to call me a liar and to oppose every PCRA filed by Perez.

I have written repeatedly that the highest principle of the District Attorney’s Office is to pursue justice, not convictions. To spread faith in the system, not undermine it. Williams steadfastly stood in the way of justice.

In this case, and others like it, I believe Krasner will have an open mind and bring justice to where it has so long been denied.

At least I hope so.