[Editors note: Last week, The Citizen ran a commentary about District Attorney candidate Carlos Vega. Vega sent this in response.]
I’m particularly proud of my work to overturn the wrongful murder conviction of George Cortez and secure a confession from the true perpetrator. That is why I have been so frustrated by Larry Krasner’s coordinated campaign to spread disinformation about my involvement in the case of Anthony Wright.
The truth is, I did not try Anthony Wright’s case the first time in 1991 and I was not the lead prosecutor on his retrial. In fact, the decision to proceed with the retrial was made by the lead prosecutor and her supervisors well before I was assigned to the case. The jury acquitted Mr. Wright, and I accept that verdict. But any assertion that I purposely kept an innocent man in jail is categorically false. I have tried over 450 cases, and not a single one of them has been overturned due to misconduct or referred for disciplinary action. Larry Krasner’s disinformation about this case is an attempt to distract us from his failures as District Attorney. Those failures, however, have had devastating consequences that are impossible to ignore.
Our city is in a crisis. Larry Krasner’s incompetence, lack of accountability, and failure to work with other agencies has directly contributed to our rise of violence. I’m asking you to give me a chance to do better.
When I announced my candidacy for district attorney back in December of last year, we were on track to have one of the deadliest years in Philadelphia history. Sadly, that trend has only gotten worse. As of April 21, there have been 151 homicides and 447 shootings. That means every day this year a mother has lived a parent’s worst nightmare—getting news that her baby has been killed or shot. At this pace, 2021 will be the deadliest year in Philadelphia history.
Our city is in a crisis. And Larry Krasner has not only failed to address this epidemic of violence, but he has made things worse since he took office in 2018—pre-pandemic.
Since Krasner took office in 2018, homicides and shootings have increased every year. As of April 2021, his office has seen a 58 percent increase in the amount of gun cases withdrawn and a 70 percent decrease in guilty verdicts at trial during his tenure versus the prior administration. As of March 31, 2021, despite 233 illegal gun possession arrests, his office withdrew or dismissed 152 of those cases. That is unacceptable
Krasner has also failed to bring reforms that are urgently needed. He has failed to bring diversity to his staff: Only 14 percent of all attorneys are Black and they only make up 10 percent of his employees making over $80,000. And while he promised to hold bad cops accountable, he has failed to secure a single felony conviction in over 38 cases involving bad cops his office investigated and arrested.
The election for District Attorney is not a choice between reform and safety. Black and brown communities like the one I grew up in are taking the brunt of both the systemic injustices that plague our society and the worsening epidemic of violent crime. We don’t have the luxury of choosing between reform and safety. We need and deserve both. We can make our communities safe by rooting out injustices in our system and ensuring fair consequences to violent crime. But we need a new District Attorney to make that happen.
I have the life experience to bring the reform we need while making sure we keep our city safe. As a young boy, I saw my Mom get held up at gunpoint in our family’s bodega. I also saw many of my friends get swallowed up by the streets—turning to drugs and violence because they lacked opportunity. These experiences motivated me to become a prosecutor and be a voice for people like my family and friends who were victims of systemic injustice and crime. And for 35 years I sought justice on behalf of victims of crime, held bad cops accountable, and helped to overturn wrongful convictions.
Our city is in a crisis, but I have a plan to fix it. We can end this epidemic of violence by re-introducing a more robust and community-inclusive version of the Focused Deterrence Program and holding violent offenders accountable. We can root out injustices in our system by ending cash bail for non-violent offenders, holding bad cops accountable, and beefing up the Conviction Integrity Unit.
Reform doesn’t have to come at the expense of our safety. Responsible reform will actually make us safer. But we need a new DA with a more sensible approach to reform and prosecuting violent crime. I pledge to be that kind of DA if given the chance. I’m asking you to vote for me on May 18.
Carlos Vega is a Democratic candidate for Philadelphia district attorney. He is a retired prosecutor, serving as an assistant district attorney for 35 years. He was the first Latino homicide prosecutor in Pennsylvania.
Make sure you’re all set to vote in the 2021 primary election in Philly
- Our voter guide lays out everyone who’s running for office and more
- Here you can learn about all the judges who will be on Philly ballots
- Have questions about voting? Find answers in our PA voting FAQ.
- Make sure you’re registered, apply for a mail-in ballot and more