[OP-ED]: Will DA candidate promises bring real justice?
Candidates seeking a victory in the May 16, 2017 primary election for District Attorney in Philadelphia have spent months making big promises to initiate reforms and ‘restore integrity’ to that post now polluted by the presence of current DA Seth Williams who is facing a federal trial for a slew of corruption charges.
However, a horrible event that occurred 11,691 days before the upcoming primary election still casts a shadow on the effectiveness of the DA’s office to fulfill its critical yet often forgotten function: justice.
The Supreme Court of Pennsylvania in a ruling issued in 1889 declared the job of prosecutors in this state is “justice only, equal and impartial justice.”
That horrible event was the fatal confrontation on May 13, 1985 between Philadelphia police and the MOVE organization where police dropped a bomb on a home in West Philadelphia occupied by members of MOVE. That bombing sparked a devastating blaze that the then Philadelphia Police Commissioner repugnantly allowed to burn. That inferno killed 11 inside the MOVE house, including five children. That inferno destroyed 61 homes.
While many consider that deadly 1985 destruction as a police action gone array against an antagonistic collective, fingerprints of the District Attorneys Office are identifiable on the disreputable chain of events before, during and after May 13, 1985.
Stripped naked, the decades long ruckus between MOVE and Philly government authorities, particularly police, revolve around double-standards of justice where MOVE is bashed for its infractions but authorities are given a pass for their illegal conduct against MOVE. That misconduct included brutal beatings including assaults on pregnant MOVE women inside courtrooms. One police assault killed a MOVE baby in 1976.
The same Philly prosecutors who secured a conviction against Ramona Africa – the only MOVE adult to survive that 1985 bombing-&-burning – refused to even file perjury charges against police caught lying about their misdeeds.
The Philly DA in May 1985, Ed Rendell, beat back efforts to force him to convene a grand jury to investigate the worse incident of police abuse in this city’s history. Rendell’s successor, Ronald Castille, did convene a grand jury but twisted law and logic to white wash wrongdoers like then Police Commissioner Greg Sambor whose bomb-&-burn orders arguably constituted reckless endangerment and risking a catastrophe.
Many of the 2017 DA candidates rant about being tough on crime. But tough on crime is apparently not the issue since nearly one-third of the 47,289 inmates in Pennsylvania’s prison system are from Philadelphia…and those Philly inmates are predominately black and Hispanic.
Philly’s next DA needs to be not only tough on crime but also tough on attacking the causes of crime – the same causes driving the ugly reality behind the ugly designation of Philadelphia having the largest rate of poverty of any big city in America.
Philadelphia’s next DA needs to get tough on elected officials in City Hall plus leaders in this city’s corporate and civic communities whose inactions aggravate the social conditions that enable crime to fester.