Philly DA Larry Krasner unveils victims' advisory panel

Philadelphia District Attorney Larry Krasner announced Friday that his office was setting up a committee to guide its interactions with crime victims — an aspect of his administration that some victims’ families have criticized in recent weeks.

At a news conference at his Center City office, Krasner and the supervisor of his office’s victim services unit, Movita Johnson-Harrell, said they want 10 to 15 people to join the committee to help the office understand how it can develop a comprehensive approach to helping victims’ families, crime survivors, and witnesses.

“They want to have a voice in what is going on in the cases that have affected them,” Krasner said. The office is accepting applications for members of the panel.

The district attorney was joined by advocates and officials including Jennifer Storm, the state’s victim advocate, and State Sen. Vincent Hughes (D., Phila.), who are backing state legislation that would strengthen protection for victims’ rights.

Several victims’ families have criticized Krasner’s office in recent weeks, saying prosecutors took actions in court without notifying them or provided unsatisfactory explanations for how they planned to handle prosecutions.

Krasner on Friday apologized to any relatives or supporters who have felt spurned by the criminal justice system and encouraged them to reach out to his office. “The door is open,” he said.

He added that the idea for the committee has been months in development, and that Johnson-Harrell — whom Krasner hired in January — had been thinking about it even longer.

Johnson-Harrell said she hoped the committee would let the office hear firsthand about any “holes and gaps” in a victim’s experience in the criminal justice system and how the prosecutor’s office might help fill them.

“We want to improve the way services are provided,” she said.