D.A. Krasner handcuffed jury

The jury has spoken, and I accept it.

The verdict on Michael White, I mean, acquitted of voluntary manslaughter.

Michael White after the verdict. (Photo: NBC Philadelphia)

I accept it, but that doesn’t mean I like it.

The same with O.J. Simpson, George Zimmerman and other questionable jury results. 

Our decision-by-jury process is imperfect, but better than any other.

But something is sticking in my craw about the Michael White case, a feeling that something was wrong. Maybe not with the jury, but with D.A. Larry Krasner. 

Something is fishy here. I suspect Krasner had an occupational flashback and was reliving his decades as a defense attorney who hated cops — and prosecutors. 

A year ago, when Krasner decided against charging Michael White with first-degree murder, I was with him.

Of course you remember the case: Sean Schellenger, a 37-year-old Point Breeze developer, was stabbed to death by White, 21, a food deliveryman and student during an altercation near Rittenhouse Square.

It didn’t seem like premeditated murder, and Krasner said cell phone video — now seen by jurors but not by the public — was pretty clear in ruling out first-degree.

We are going with the evidence. OK.

Then, shortly before the trial began, Krasner suddenly withdrew charges of third-degree murder, leaving only voluntary manslaughter as a main charge. Based on what evidence, I wondered. What had changed?

Linda Schellenger, the victim’s mother, was understandably outraged. Both  murder and manslaughter charges should be on the table, she said. Let the jury decide.

I agreed with the mother in a column and speculated that leaving it to the jury seemed to be exactly what Krasner wanted to avoid.

I was on to something, but missed Krasner’s slick trick because I am not a lawyer. The trick wasn’t just reducing the possible penalty for the crime. Third-degree carries a 20-40 year jail term while voluntary manslaughter is just 10-20 years. Throwing out third-degree murder was more insidious than just changing the possible sentence.

Krasner said he thought he had a better chance of getting a conviction on the voluntary manslaughter charge. The opposite is true, in the opinion of several defense attorneys, two of whom were willing to be quoted.

Third-degree murder has a relatively low bar, with no specific intent to kill being required for conviction. Voluntary manslaughter, on the other hand, is usually considered a “heat of passion” crime with self-defense being a reliable defense. Krasner surely knew White’s excellent legal team was going to use a self-defense tactic. He gift wrapped it for his former(?) defense colleagues.

“He didn’t want to see Michael White convicted of third-degree, the more likely outcome,” said Chuck Peruto, the veteran barrister with hundreds of trials under his belt. 

Another defense attorney, William Ciancaglini (who is the Republican candidate for mayor) said, “I think [Krasner] wanted to impose his decision on this case.”

Neither wished to comment on the verdict itself because they had not sat through the trial.

Ciancaglini said he would have accepted a jury’s not-guilty verdict on first- or third-degree charges in this case, “but the jury did not get to decide this.”

He agreed with the victim’s mother that the jury should have been presented with both charges. It could have selected which one best fit the crime, he said. “That’s what juries do.”

The White jury was prevented from doing that.

If you don’t like the outcome, don’t blame the jury.

Blame the D.A. He sabotaged the jurors. 

12 thoughts on “D.A. Krasner handcuffed jury”

    Sorry to say, with krasner as the D.A., justice really is blind. The residents of Philly are like sheep being led to slaughter ! The choices for elected positions, often enough, are not that great. To me, this means that the voting public needs to get involved early on in the democratic process. Get behind a worthy candidate early on, and actually go out and support that person. YOU can make a difference !

  2. Whether we like it or not, in the words of His Honor W. Wilson Goode, 65 percent of the community is a minority. And this was a very, very popular verdict for the minority community. It fits the progressive narrative of minorities are simply fighting back against their oppressors.

    The way this case was prosecuted had nothing to do with justice, it was the fulfillment of a political campaign promise, designed to promote the Krasner’s re-election by a gullible electorate. If the election were held tomorrow, Krapster would carry the minority community by a landslide.

    In the end, it all comes down to votes with which to perpetuate himself in office.

  3. you can thank george soros for backing krasner, who upon becoming the D.A. of Philly, immediately set about doing no good for soros. it’s going to get worse before the voting public of Philadelphia wakes up and makes a lot of changes.
    goibg back a few years. there was a morning drive guy name, Jim Gearhardt(?) on N.J.101.5. the guy was straight forward about the current topics. one of his sayings / songs was GRIP and BOHICA. “get rid of incompetent politicians”meant just about all of them and “bend over here it comes again” , which is what we got every time the pols got together and voted for something for themselves.

  4. I still can’t understand why Krapner even had anything to do with reducing the charges. Usually it is the defense attorney who asks for reduced charges and the D.A. can object to it or approve it. Oh and having the Original White Guilt Judge Bronson didn’t hurt either.

  5. Philadelphians keep electing the same goniffs year after year. They get what they deserve. It’s not the system that stinks, it’s the people who perpetuate the system.

  6. There’s been a significant spike in violent crime in Philadelphia. Criminals continue to become more brazen in their disregard for authority. So let’s ban plastic bags.

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