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FACTCHECK: PA House GOP’s Big Impeachment Lies

PHILADELPHIA (November 15, 2022) – Pennsylvania House Republicans are using their final days as lame duck legislators with majority control to engage in a Hail Mary attempt to remove District Attorney Larry Krasner from office. Instead of learning from their historic losses on November 8th, these legislators – like their failed gubernatorial nominee and colleague Doug Mastrianoare more committed to gutting democracy than working for the people of the Commonwealth.

Philadelphians were clear one year ago and Pennsylvanians were clear last Tuesday that fact-free fearmongering about crime is no substitute for real solutions to reduce the supply of guns into our communities and prevent violence. PA House Republicans are proving yet again that they have no desire to govern responsibly – even as Pennsylvanians sent a strong message that there are consequences for their war on democracy and their failure to deliver on positive changes to the communities they are supposed to represent.

The Philadelphia DA’s Office vigorously prosecutes the most serious and violent crimes while upholding its oath to the U.S. and Pennsylvania constitutions. 

  • 83% of trial-ready fatal shooting cases result in conviction (compared with 30% rate of arrest for fatal shootings by PPD). The Philly DA’s trial-ready conviction rate for all homicides is 87%.

  • 79% of trial-ready non-fatal shooting cases result in conviction (compared with 20% rate of arrest for non-fatal shootings by PPD).

  • Following arrest, the Philly DA’s Office charges nearly every homicide and non-fatal shooting case referred by law enforcement after careful review by ADAs. When charges are declined or downgraded, it is almost always attributed to new information or evidence that was not originally available to law enforcement or the DAO.

  • There is an historically high number of open cases awaiting trial due to pandemic court closures. Due to the backlog of serious cases awaiting trial, for many offenses calculating a conviction rate post-2020 in comparison to previous years presents an unfairly distorted picture of how policing and the criminal courts have been changed for the long term by the pandemic. Put simply, cases that are withdrawn or dismissed resolve more quickly than those that go to trial, so the backlog of serious cases impacts conviction rates. Other case types (eg, gun possession) are impacted by changes in law and arrest behavior.

  • From January 2017 through September 18, 2022: 96% of homicide cases opened by the DAO were held for trial by judges past the preliminary hearing.

  • From January 2017 through September 18, 2022: 99% of non-fatal shooting cases opened by the DAO were held for trial by judges past the preliminary hearing.

Violent crime and all categories of crime remain historically low compared with the 1990s. Sensationalized coverage of the troubling increase in gun violence since 2020 distracts attention from prevention and targeted solutions. 

  • “Crime rates do fluctuate from year to year. In 2020, for example, murder has been up but other crimes are in decline so that the crime rate, overall, is down. And the trend line for violent crime over the last 30 years has been down, not up. The Bureau of Justice Statistics found that the rate of violent crimes per 1,000 Americans age 12 and older plummeted from 80 in 1993 to just 23 in 2018. The country has gotten much, much safer, but, somehow, Americans don’t seem to feel that on a knee-jerk, emotional level.” — FiveThirtyEight

  • The late Sen. Arlen Specter in 2010, citing reporting from 2009: “Using statistics from the Administrative Office of the Pennsylvania Courts and the Department of Justice, Bureau of Justice Statistics, the Philadelphia Inquirer reported that Philadelphia, among large urban counties, has the Nation’s lowest felony conviction rate. For most big cities the conviction rate is 50 percent but for Philadelphia the conviction rate is only 20 percent, and that rate has been steadily declining over time.”
  • Philadelphia has seen a reduction in homicides of 5% from one year ago today.

Scrutiny of big cities and progressive DAs distracts from other jurisdictions run by conservative politicians that have seen higher increases in gun violence.

  • 20 of the 54 U.S. cities that had at least 10 murders in 2019 saw a greater increases in murders 2019-2021 than Philly.

  • 5 of the 13 PA counties with at least 300,000 population saw a larger increase in homicides from 2019-21 than Philly (Chester (267%), Allegheny (72%), Berks (69%), Lehigh (60%), Luzerne (60%).

  • Politicized scrutiny of progressive DAs obscures or even erases the critical public safety role of police. Their actions matter in crime deterrence far more than prosecutors, as we know it is certainty of punishment (i.e., arrest) and swiftness (or, celerity) of punishment that deter, more than severity. People who seek to scapegoat progressive prosecutors are really doing a disservice to police by ignoring their role and impact.

  • From 2017 to 2021 in Philly, there was a 4% decrease in incidents (129,492 to 124,529) but a 46% drop in arrests by the police (from 42,637 to 22,854).

  • In 2020, per capita murder rates were 40% higher in pro-NRA, pro-mass incarceration states won by Trump than those won by Biden.

  • 8 of the 10 states with the highest murder rates in 2020 voted for the Republican presidential nominee in every election this century.

PA House Republicans have repeatedly demonstrated that this effort is not actually about public safety and reducing gun violence. 

  • In June, Democratic lawmakers offered Amendment 5217, which would expand the scope of the resolution for the committee to investigate, review, and make findings and recommendations concerning rising rates of gun violence throughout the entire Commonwealth of Pennsylvania. Post-2020, communities across PA have experienced tragically high increases in shootings and firearm suicides. However, Amendment 5217 was rejected, with every House Republican voting against and every House Democrat voting in favor.

  • In November 2021, GOP lawmakers passed a bill repealing permit requirements for carrying firearms — despite Governor Wolf vowing to veto the bill, which would essentially eliminate one of the few forms of background checks for gun owners that PA allows.

  • PA GOP lawmakers have long refused to take up bills that would immediately reduce gun violence and save lives, including by requiring reporting for lost and stolen guns within 72 hours; closing loopholes and requiring background checks on all gun sales; requiring safe storage of firearms to prevent minors from accessing guns, accidental injury/death, and suicides; and creating Extreme Risk Protection Orders (ERPO), or red flag laws, to protect people who may be a danger to themselves or others.
  • PA House Republicans continue to cite a widely debunked study commissioned by the right-wing billionaire-funded Manhattan Institute.

Opposition to the PA House GOP’s nakedly politicized attempt to impeach DA Krasner is broad, nonpartisan, and diverse. The House Select Committee formed to hunt for information that might legitimize the impeachment effort could not recommend impeachment in a lengthy report issued prior to the November 8 election. 

  • Al Schmidt, President & CEO, Committee of Seventy: “Our representative democracy is built on the foundation that the people should elect who represents them in government. That means honoring the results of a free and fair election is a sacred responsibility, especially for those who may have preferred a different outcome. There is no doubt that Larry Krasner was elected District Attorney by the voters of Philadelphia. Any effort to remove him from that elected position is at odds with the will of the voters. The Committee of Seventy stands with our fellow civic leaders in defense of our democracy.”

  • Reggie Shuford, Executive Director, ACLU of Pennsylvania: “This impeachment effort is just the latest maneuver to undermine the will of Philadelphia voters. These voters used their own discretion to choose a District Attorney who pledged to reduce mass incarceration, rather than continuing the same old punitive policies that we know do not work.”

  • Mimi McKenzie, Legal Director, Public Interest Law Center: “The actions of this House committee are an assault on democracy. Larry Krasner was elected by an overwhelming majority of Philadelphia voters in a free and fair election.  As an organization that has been at the forefront in protecting voting rights in Pennsylvania, the House attempt to remove a democratically elected local official because they disagree with his criminal justice reform policies must be called out for what it is. It an effort to subvert the will of Philadelphia voters.”

The DAO’s lawsuit related to the impeachment effort and other documents are available here: https://linktr.ee/phillydalarrykrasner.

CONTACT:Jane Roh, 215-686-8711, [email protected]

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The Philadelphia District Attorney’s Office is the largest prosecutor’s office in Pennsylvania, and one of the largest in the nation. It serves the more than 1.5 million residents of the City and County of Philadelphia, employing 600 lawyers, detectives, and support staff. The District Attorney’s Office is responsible for the prosecution of approximately 40,000 criminal cases annually. Learn more about the DAO by visiting PhillyDA.org.