« "Solitary Troubles" | Main | Prez Trump reportedly "would love to have a law to execute all drug dealers here in America" »

February 25, 2018

What a difference a DA can make: new Philly District Attorney taking new approach to juve lifer resentencings

This recent local article, headlined "Why Philly DA Krasner could let 180+ juvenile lifers out of prison early," reports on the impact the recently elected Philadelphia prosecutor is having local cases demanding resentencing in the wake of the Supreme Court's Eighth Amendment ruling in Miller. Here are the details:

Philadelphia has sentenced more teens to life in prison with no chance of parole than any other jurisdiction in the world — and that meant it had the largest number to resentence after the U.S. Supreme Court two years ago ruled that its 2012 ban on mandatory life-without-parole sentences for minors must be applied retroactively.

As of this week, 127 out of approximately 315 juvenile lifers from Philadelphia have been resentenced. For those whose cases are still in process, the election of District Attorney Larry Krasner appears to have immediately and dramatically changed the outlook.

It means new deals are already on the table for 17 who had rejected offers made under the previous District Attorney’s Office, which mostly stuck close to current state sentencing guidelines that set minimums at 35 years to life for first-degree murder and 30 to life for second-degree murder. The latest offers make all but two of the lifers eligible for parole right away; it would also keep them all on parole for life. Some set minimums as low as 21 years for first-degree murder.

As for the remaining resentencings, Krasner said he intends to consider each case individually. Rather than relying on the sentencing guidelines, he said he would look to the historical, national and international context that has made Pennsylvania second in the nation in imposing life-without-parole sentences. “We are being consistent as we do our duty, which is to consider all these unique factors in resentencing,” he said. “It’s worth bearing in mind that Pennsylvania is an extreme outlier in excessive sentencing, and the United States is an extreme outlier in excessive sentencing.”

What’s unclear, however, is whether a Philadelphia judge will sign off on those agreements. At a recent status hearing, Common Pleas Judge Kathryn Streeter-Lewis, who is in charge of approving agreements in juvenile-lifer cases, asked the district attorney to submit briefs defending the deals’ legality in light of precedent-setting rulings by Pennsylvania’s appellate courts in the case of Qu’eed Batts, an Easton man who was 14 when he participated in a gang-related execution. In his case, the court acknowledged each judge has discretion to craft individualized minimum sentences, but said “sentencing courts should be guided” by current state law. “I understand that there is a different administration,” she said, but added, “Some of these [offers] are very much below the guidelines the decision required. … I’m going to need some reasons.”

One such case involved Avery Talmadge, who’s been locked up 22 years and was offered a time-served deal that — in a departure from past practice for the District Attorney’s Office — contemplates whether the original conviction was even appropriate. “The case was a street fight that turned into a shooting,” Assistant District Attorney Chesley Lightsey told Streeter-Lewis. “The [DAO’s internal resentencing] committee believes this is closer to a third-degree, though it was a first-degree conviction.” She said he also had an excellent prison record, reflecting the Supreme Court’s underlying rationale that kids, while impulsive and immature, also have a great capacity for rehabilitation.

Bradley Bridge of the Defender Association, which represents many of the lifers, believes the new offers will withstand judicial scrutiny — and that of the public. Krasner, he said, “sees the dangers of overincarceration and has come up with a meaningful solution.  He has reevaluated offers and, consistent with the protection of the public, has recognized that new offers can take into account to a more significant degree the juvenile’s growth while in prison.”...

Krasner said offers he’s approved so far have included minimums ranging between 40 years and just under 20 years.  He declined to specify a floor for minimum sentences. “I see no arbitrary number. We are approaching this the way the Anglo-American court system has approached these for centuries: on a case-by-case basis.”

February 25, 2018 at 08:06 PM | Permalink


You tell me not to give Nikolaus Cruz the death penalty cause he can have life without parole. Then you tell me that you want people like him (under 21) to be eligible for parole.

You're the real monster. You can't stop lying. That's why we voted for Trump is cause he's not a nigger like you.

Posted by: Father of dead florida student | Feb 25, 2018 8:28:35 PM

Not sure to whom you are directing your invective toward, "Father of dead florida student", but I doubt a racist slur advances the point you hope to convey with your comment.

Posted by: Doug B | Feb 25, 2018 9:49:26 PM

Doug. Of course, black people are the biggest losers of the pro-criminal policy of Harvard Law School radicalized lawyers running the criminal justice system.

Sad 17 innocents students lost their lives. However, your ilk assassinates an excess of 5000 black young people, every year. Your kind is 100 times more lethal to black males than the KKK.

On top of this crime against humanity, your boy, Harvard Law School radicalized lawyer, Rod Rosenstein, Fergusons Baltimore, with a Draconian consent decree, basically shutting down the police. In Baltimore, say, boo, to a vicious predator, you get fired. The result? Hundreds of additional young black people have been murdered since that time.

Who is the biggest racist, an upset father, or you Harvard Law School radicalized lawyers? You kill black people by the thousands a year, and by the hundreds of thousands over the decades.

Posted by: David Behar | Feb 26, 2018 2:04:31 AM

Krazy Krasner is lucky. The 1000 opioid overdose deaths in Philadelphia will allow him to claim success. With this death rate, far higher than the wildest dreams of proponents of the death penalty for all repeat office, his office is just irrelevant. Each death prevents 200 crimes a year, and the spawning of several criminals who will not commit 200 crimes a year. Crime may just disappear from Philadelphia under his administration.

Krasner, Stanford Law School radicalized traitor to our nation, fired 30 prosecutors and replace them with his pals, equally pro-criminal lawyers as he is. These are all Black Lives Matter approved pro-criminal lawyers. These are at will employees subject to the whims of the political hacks running the office. Trump should have done the same at the Department of Justice.

Of course, he will claim his policies are responsible for the drop in crime in this city.

Posted by: David Behar | Feb 26, 2018 2:16:18 AM


I would urge you to start moderating your comments. Your blog is excellent, and many attorneys practicing in criminal law read it. But your comments section is so dominated by trolls--the vast majority of whom seem not to be attorneys or otherwise to have any relevant professional expertise or insights about sentencing law--that thoughtful commenters don't participate.

Posted by: Anon AFPD | Feb 26, 2018 12:11:43 PM

I second Anon AFPD

Posted by: John | Feb 26, 2018 1:54:05 PM

He already has started to moderate though it strongly went against his inclinations. Baby steps.

Posted by: Joe | Feb 26, 2018 2:10:05 PM

Joe rightly realizes that, though I hate to censor anyone, I have taken to eliminating what strike me as the "worst of the worst" comments. I am certain that I will not delete nearly as many comments as some would wish, but limited time (and a limitless eagerness to give voice to all) shapes my efforts in this regard.

Posted by: Doug B. | Feb 26, 2018 3:23:11 PM

Prof. Berman will only remove pro-victim comments, never pro-criminal comments.

The people above owe their jobs to the criminal. Any suggestion to suppress crime threatens their jobs. They need to disclose their economic self interest.

Wait a few years. All of you will lose your jobs, as crime nearly disappears, from the opioid overdose epidemic. You will not be missed, since what you do is close to worthless to the public interest.

Posted by: David Behar | Feb 27, 2018 6:47:15 AM

Doug enjoys hearing from the Ambassador to the lawyer profession from the people of Earth. I bring facts, and shit from high school that was suppressed by the law school radicalization and indoctrination.

I am interested in knowing if Doug took a course in Medieval Philosophy in college.

Posted by: David Behar | Feb 27, 2018 8:12:02 AM

Post a comment

In the body of your email, please indicate if you are a professor, student, prosecutor, defense attorney, etc. so I can gain a sense of who is reading my blog. Thank you, DAB