Philadelphia District Attorney Larry Krasner says that a lack of witnesses appearing in court has been the biggest reason some illegal gun-possession cases have failed to end with a conviction over the last several years, a trend some blame for skyrocketing gun violence, the Philadelphia Inquirer reports. In written testimony to the City Council, Krasner said staffers who studied 400 cases found that those issues had been steady since at least 2016, leaving them unable to say why more gun-related prosecutions were being withdrawn or dismissed since Krasner took office. About half of the cases studied, both pre- and post-Krasner’s arrival, were tossed primarily due to witnesses not showing up. About a quarter failed due to “weak evidence.”
The report responded to questions raised at Council hearings on gun violence. Officials including Police Commissioner Danielle Outlaw had cited data from Krasner’s office showing that a higher percentage of illegal gun-possession cases had been dismissed as police were arresting more suspects for illegally carrying firearms, and as the city’s gun violence hit near-record levels in 2020. Before Krasner was sworn in, the share of illegal gun-possession cases withdrawn or dismissed never topped 29 percent. It has grown in each of the last three years, to 48 percent this year. Some police commanders — who have long grumbled about what they perceive as Krasner’s leniency toward gun crimes — began waging a thinly veiled campaign of criticism on social media as they apprehended gun suspects. Last summer, former Police Commissioner Richard Ross suggested that gunmen were increasingly carrying illegal guns because they believed they wouldn’t be held accountable. Mayor Jim Kenney accused Krasner of being too forgiving of suspected gunmen — an accusation the district attorney denied, saying that he was continuing to charge nearly all suspects arrested for violent crimes.