[OP-ED]: Will New (Interim) Philly DA End Ineffective Expensive Practices?
The career accomplishments of Kelley Hodge situate her well for the vital mission she volunteered to undertake over the next five-plus months.
Hodge must restore a semblance of perceived integrity to the Philadelphia District Attorneys Office now reeling from the federal corruption indictment of and guilty plea from former DA Seth Williams who sits in a federal jail awaiting sentencing this fall.
Philadelphia's obscure Board of Judges selected Hodge to replace Williams until the expiration of his term early in January 2018 in part because she's worked as a prosecutor in Philly, has held distinguished administrative positions plus possess experiences with both criminal defense and civil law.
That Board - comprised of judges in Philadelphia serving on the Common Pleas and Municipal courts - rejected efforts to overtly politicize the DA Office or return that problem plagued office to a dark past when it made the historic selection of Hodge from 14 candidates who sought to replace Williams until a new DA is selected in the General Election later this year.
Hodge is now the first African American female in Pennsylvania to hold the post of top prosecutor for a county - a historic distinction for her yet a damning reminder of the discriminatory exclusion that still haunts this state's justice system and the minds of too many voters who elect DAs and judges.
Yes, nearly 40 of Philadelphia's 88 judges are non-white (32 blacks, five Latinos and two Asians).
However, this Philadelphia judicial figure exceeds the total number of non- white judges serving in all of Pennsylvania's other 66 counties. And, this figure serves as an embarrassment for the state's three powerful statewide appellate courts where voters have historically shutout non-whites from service...despite qualified non-white judicial candidates who historically have received scant support from the Democratic or Republican parties.
Too much attention in the race to replace the disgraced Seth Williams roiled around personalities, particularly the candidacy of former (and caustic) DA, Lynne Abraham. Too often too little attention is paid to the price of policies pursued by officials like a DA.
Take Abraham for example who relished the nickname of 'Deadliest DA in America' for her rabid pursuit of the death penalty. Nearly 60 of the 161 persons on death row in Pennsylvania are from Philadelphia. While Abraham is not responsible for all of those Philly placements of Pa's death row she did eagerly utilize the most expensive penalty to excess.
Death penalty prosecutions in Pennsylvania cost around $3.1-million from arrest to final appeal, over three times the cost of the long-suffering life-in-prison-without-parole sentence for murderers.
And contrary to claims by Abraham and other death penalty proponents: no conclusive evidence exists that the death penalty deters murder according to repeated analysis by the National Research Council since 1978.
Philly's now soaring (and always too high) murder rate evidences the fallacy of the death penalty deterrent.
Spending more precious public funds fighting crime than attacking crime causes like lack of education and employment is another fallacy. Philadelphia's City Hall spends millions more on the DA Office than Community College. Funding for cops, courts, prisons and prosecutors consumes nearly one-third of the City's multi-billon dollar annual budget.
Perhaps interim top prosecutor Kelley Hodge will utilize her post to point out fallacies that cripple crime fighting efforts.