Get ready to release the hounds.
As first moves go, freshly elected District Attorney Larry Krasner showing 31 staffers the door three days into his new gig lacked a little something he and other candidates touted when they were shopping for votes: transparency.
Can you hear the baying hounds now? Because if there’s one thing I’ve noticed less than two weeks into his tenure it is that some of Krasner’s most rabid supporters aren’t big on criticism, constructive as it may aim to be. Interesting, since that was a huge knock on the last administration.
But let’s not get too far afield here. This isn’t so much about the now infamous Krasner Purge as it is about those families of homicide victims who feel as if their grief has been compounded by cuts that have already delayed some cases.
By purging prosecutors with whom they have bonded over the years and trusted would seek justice on their behalf.
By failing to give crime victims a heads-up that some of the changes that were coming might impact them.
“By being left out in the cold,’’ Aleida Garcia told me when she asked me to meet her and other family members of homicide victims this week at Greenmount Cemetery.
The first she heard about the cuts was through a newspaper article.
It was symbolic, gathering on Wednesday at a North Philadelphia cemetery covered in snow where some of their loved ones had been buried.
At the top of a small hill, Lisa Espinosa had buried her 26-year-old son, Raymond Pantoja, who was shot and killed April 10, 2016.
Steps away, Waleska Baez had laid her 19-year-old son, Miguel Colon, to rest after he was shot and killed three days after Espinosa’s son.
And not far away, Rosalind Pichardo visited the grave site of her brother, Alexander Martinez. She quietly said it was six years ago to the day that he was killed.
The trial against the man accused of killing Espinosa’s son has already been continued, and is set to begin in June.
Both the Colon and Martinez cases remain unsolved.
When Espinosa heard, through another mother of a murder victim, that the district attorney had let dozens of prosecutors go, she panicked.
She was relieved to hear that the prosecutor on the case was still on the job.
Garcia’s was not.
That made for a rough night at Garcia’s house, full of tears and confusion and anger. What did this mean to the scheduled April 30 start of the trial against the man accused of killing her son, Alejandro Rojas-Garcia, in 2015? The prosecutor had walked them through the biggest nightmare of their lives. He told them what they could expect, he vowed to get them through the roughest parts, and do all he could to get justice for their son.
They don’t know. They haven’t heard much from the man who always seemed available when he was running for office.
At the cemetery Wednesday, family members talked about the constant state of pain they exist in since losing their loved ones.
Garcia held a piece of the yellow crime tape that hung around the scene of her son’s murder, just on the other side of the cemetery.
Espinosa talked of wanting to escape.
“This trial is the only thing holding me here,” she said. “My family needs to start fresh, and here is not the place. Every time you see the news and you see someone else dying, it just brings all those feelings back. You want to help, but it feels like you’re going against the wave. No matter how many times you get up, you just keep falling.”
As angry as they are about the changes, they wanted to make something clear.
They aren’t anti-Krasner, they said. They aren’t even against some of the reforms Krasner campaigned on, including an end to mass incarceration and impunity for police misconduct.
“I’m not trying to pick a fight with him,” said Wilfredo Rojas, Alejandro Rojas-Garcia’s father. “This is Human Emotion 101, and he should have thought about how these changes would affect the families.”
In the days after his cuts, Krasner has shed a little more light into his decisions. He has also announced a hire that makes some of the families hopeful. He has brought on Movita Johnson-Harrell as the new victim-services supervisor. Johnson-Harrell, an outspoken antiviolence advocate, lost her father, son, brother, and cousin to gun violence.
Krasner also told reporters he understands some employees and crime victims may have felt disoriented by the changes.
In his defense, change is what he promised. And change is what he’s brought.
“The coach gets to pick his team,” he said.
No doubt, Larry. But a good coach lets the team — and that includes the public — in on his plan.