Throughout his candidacy for district attorney, Larry Krasner has spoken about resisting the Trump administration, ending mass incarceration and standing up for civil-rights. During his 30 years as an attorney, he stood up for organizations such as ACT UP, Black Lives Matter and other organizations relating to LGBT rights, disabled people and immigrants.
PGN: There have already been nine transgender women of color murdered across the nation this year. If elected, what will your office do to combat violence against transgender individuals in Philadelphia, specifically women of color?
LK: If and when there are incidents, I will have my supervisors and my prosecutors take those charges incredibly seriously. When I see violence involving a trans victim, to me, a red flag goes up immediately to see if this is a hate crime. I have been there when this Philadelphia Police Department wouldn’t take hate crimes seriously and, to me, that’s unacceptable. You have to have a police department that treats everybody equally and cares about everybody’s issues and that doesn’t consider certain people to be less than human. I think by using the office as a bully pulpit, being as serious as possible about properly prosecuting these cases, working with the police commissioner to do police trainings around this issue or to make sure the trainings are adequate, I believe we could make a difference and make the situation better for trans people.
PGN: If elected, will you assist PGN in our ongoing efforts to settle all open-records litigation for access to Nizah Morris records?
LK: The short answer is yes. I am a great believer in providing information to the press. However, when you ask a candidate what will you do when you are in office and that candidate doesn’t have all of the information, you’re basically inviting a candidate to make promises that may or may not be appropriate. Every bit of my instincts favors transparency but if I were to find something in the file that the mother or the father of Nizah Morris didn’t want revealed, then that is something I would have to look at. Assuming that the family of Nizah Morris wanted the information revealed and assuming the law permitted it, I would like there to be the maximum amount of transparency and I would like to assist in getting all information out about that incident.
PGN: How would you approach racial disparities in both the charging and sentencing processes?
LK: There’s [a New York-based] organization called Vera [Institute of Justice] that looks — among other things — at what district attorneys do. One of the first things I would do would be to invite that kind of outside agency or nonprofit to come in and do a study of institutional racism and use that as a basis for how to address it. Those careful reviews and comparisons are crucial for a prosecutor who is serious about eliminating deliberate and institutional racism in their processes. That’s one part of it but there’s another part of it: Police enforcement occurs in poor neighborhoods. When you have a system where all the kids in Chestnut Hill can walk around with weed in their back pocket and all of the kids in West Philly are going to get busted for it, that’s a racist system. Part of the district attorney’s job is to try to persuade the police and also use discretion to push back and refuse cases when there seems to be a selective and racist pattern of arrests, searches and seizures.
PGN: What is your position on the current immigration crackdown being led by the Trump administration? What role does the D.A.’s Office play in this process?
LK: It’s heinous. I am fluent in the Spanish language. I have represented a ton of people who are Spanish-speaking and effectively monolingual over the years, many of them without status for an extensive period of time. This issue is near and dear to my heart. The District Attorney’s Office has less of a role than I would like because a mechanism is set up where once fingerprints are entered into a system, ICE is notified. A district attorney can’t really play a role in that. It just goes around the District Attorney’s Office. However, the District Attorney’s Office does have a couple of other roles. It has an important vote, which I would exercise in favor of remaining a sanctuary city.
PGN: In light of the bribery charges facing our current District Attorney, what would you do to root out corruption within the office?
LK: Issue one is pretty straightforward: Don’t take gifts. There has to be careful scrutiny to make sure that none of the district attorneys are engaging in corrupt behavior. There hasn’t generally been a significant problem. What has been a significant problem is district attorneys looking the other way to issues of police corruption. I’m unafraid to go after police corruption. Based on my record, it should be clear that I really don’t have an interest in trips and gifted tickets and any of that nonsense.
PGN: Some organizations have called for the release of data on the number of people of color convicted in Philadelphia each year. Is this something you would support?
LK: Yes. Based on the information I have at this time, absolutely. If these groups were to come forward and say, “We don’t want you to do that,” if the NAACP and Black Lives Matter were to say, “No, we don’t want you to do that,” then that is something we would have to discuss. But if the consensus of groups who speak for people of color was that they want this released, I would absolutely be in favor of that.
PGN: What is your position on cash bail?
LK: I’d like to eliminate it. I believe the system that they have in the District of Columbia, which is decades old, [is] remarkable and successful. I’m tired of watching the city rip off more people.
PGN: What is your position on the death penalty?
LK: I am the only candidate who has been clear that I would not pursue it. Period.
PGN: Do you think that police violence, specifically against communities of color, is an issue in Philadelphia? If so, what would you do to combat it?
LK: Having been someone who repeatedly filed lawsuits on behalf of people who were beaten viciously, shot by police under circumstances where it was not justified, I take those cases incredibly seriously. There needs to be much more transparency about the circumstances surrounding brutality or violence toward people of color by police.
PGN: The D.A.’s Office has not had an LGBT liaison since the beginning of 2015. Is this a position you would resurrect?
LK: The short answer is yes unless people from that community did not want it. I think it makes a lot of sense.
PGN: Do you support the statewide LGBT nondiscrimination bill? If yes, what would you do to advance it?
LK: District attorneys don’t pass laws but they do have a bully pulpit and they have the ability to speak out on issues that go even beyond what they do. I would be happy to use that bully pulpit to stand up on those kinds of issues.
PGN: Do you support the statewide hate-crimes bill? If yes, what would you do to advance this measure?
LK: Yes. Again, it’s a bully pulpit and we are coming from a city that has been a powerhouse in terms of pushing gay rights. I would probably go back to the many clients and organizations I have worked with for years, ask for their support and work together with them to lobby, to do press [and] to advocate in favor of it.
PGN: Until an LGBT-inclusive hate-crimes law is adopted, what do you think can be done to better track and report hate crimes motivated by a victim’s sexual orientation and/or gender identity?
LK: What you need to do is really dig in an investigative way and if the police haven’t done it, then the District Attorney’s Office has to fill that gap. You have to look at social media. You have to look at all of the connections among people involved. You have to try to determine any number of ways whether the motivation is actually hate or whether it’s simply a situation in which there has been a crime against a person who happens to be a member of a particular group.
PGN: Why should the LGBT community vote for you?
LK: The LGBTQ community should vote for me because I have stood with the LGBTQ community since 1989. That is when, as a young public defender, ACT UP identified me as a person they wanted to be their representative when Mayor Goode was investigating what was effectively a riot against AIDS activists, the vast majority of whom were gay and many of whom were HIV-positive. I have represented groups that were important to the gay community or leaders within the gay community. Some of them are now the heads of significant organizations. I put so much time into it even though it was unpaid and unpopular at the time. It is easy to talk. It is more difficult to do and, unfortunately, when it comes to elections, people are willing to say pretty much anything to get elected. I would respectfully suggest to the gay community to look at what I’ve done, not what any of us say. Just look at what I’ve done.
For more information on Larry Krasner, visit https://krasnerforda.com.