House adopts resolution to investigate Philly DA Krasner over objections of city lawmakers

Republicans who spoke in support of the resolution said it was a response to cries for help from the families of people murdered in the city since Krasner took office

By: - June 29, 2022 7:22 pm

Philadelphia District Attorney Larry Krasner (Jared Piper/Philadelphia City Council/City & State Pa.)

(*This story was updated Thursday, June 30, 2022, at 10 a.m. to correctly attribute a quote from Rep. Mike Jones, R-York.)

The state House adopted a resolution Wednesday to investigate crime in Philadelphia and  District Attorney Larry Krasner following fiery rhetoric from city lawmakers who accused the measure’s sponsors of trying to subvert the will of voters.

Krasner, who was overwhelmingly re-elected last year, came into the sights of three Republican House members in districts west of the Susquehanna River following a mass shooting this month in the city’s South Street entertainment district. 

Reps. Josh Kail, of Beaver County; Torren Ecker, of Adams County; and Tim O’Neal, of Washington County, said after three people were killed and 11 more were wounded that “unchecked violent crime” in Philadelphia had reached a breaking point and circulated a memorandum proposing articles of impeachment against Krasner.

Republicans who spoke in support of the resolution said it was a response to cries for help from the families of people murdered in the city since Krasner took office.  

The resolution adopted with a 114-86 vote Wednesday would create a select committee of five members picked by House Speaker Bryan Cutler, R-Lancaster, to investigate the surge of crime in which more than 1,100 people have been killed or wounded in gun violence so far this year. The committee’s recommendations could include impeaching Krasner.

Rep. Malcolm Kenyatta, D-Philadelphia, described the measure as legislative theatrics and said it was an affront to victims of crime when there is a gun violence crisis across the state.

He rejected an assertion by Kail, the resolution’s sole sponsor, that it was intended to give victims a platform to be heard.

“Sir, this is about you having a platform,” Kenyatta said.

Kenyatta  urged House members to focus instead on the root causes of crime and violence such as poor public housing, crumbling schools and a dearth of jobs that pay livable wages.

“If folks in this building are interested for real in the root causes of violence … let’s have that conversation,” Kenyatta said. “There are people in Philadelphia who have spent time understanding this.”

Rep. Jason Dawkins, D-Philadelphia, said the Philadelphia district attorney’s office is the most transparent in the state, and cited case statistics that in fatal and non-fatal shooting cases and property crimes the vast majority of those arrested were charged. 

“For me it’s really hard to see where this particular district attorney isn’t doing their job,” Dawkins said.

Not all Philadelphia Democrats were opposed to investigating Krasner, who has drawn disdain from police for his positions against mass incarceration and police corruption.

Rep. Ed Neilson, D-Philadelphia, spoke of attending the dedication of a new  playground in his district to a police officer he said was killed by a person who Krasner allowed to go free.

“It’s a sad day that we have to do this, but it’s a good day for my neighbors, some of whom have fallen because of no fault of their own,” Neilson said.

Rep. Mike Jones, R-York, responded to a suggestion by Rep. Chris Rabb, D-Philadelphia, that the supporters of the resolution were colonizing the interests of Philadelphia by saying that the House represents the entire state of Pennsylvania, and that residents of other counties attend college, sporting events and cultural institutions in the city.

“If your constituents attend York College in my district, rest assured that our district attorney is there to protect them,” Ecker said.

House Majority Leader Kerry Benninghoff, R-Centre, noted that other Philadelphia officials including Mayor Jim Kenny and police Commissioner Danielle Outlaw have been critical of Krasner, describing the city’s criminal justice system as a revolving door. 

“We can’t turn a blind eye to the fact that 68 percent of all murders in this commonwealth happen in just two counties,” he said. “It is my hope that this investigation select committee will leave no stone unturned.”

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Peter Hall
Peter Hall

Peter Hall has been a journalist in Pennsylvania and New Jersey for more than 20 years, most recently covering criminal justice and legal affairs for The Morning Call in Allentown. His career at local newspapers and legal business publications has taken him from school board meetings to the Pennsylvania Supreme Court and many points of interest between. He earned a degree in journalism from Susquehanna University.