Met Seth Williams last nightI went with two friends to the Candidates Night at the Trinity Center last night. We saw the following speakers (in order): Lynn Abraham, Alan Butkovitz, Seth Williams, and John Braxton. Unfortunately, Lynn Abraham spoke and then left, so there was no debate between the two DA candidates, which would have been nice.
Abraham reviewed her accomplishments and goals and took a few questions from the audience. In response to an audience question about her preference for choosing juries willing to impose the death penalty, Abraham stated that there was “not a dime’s worth of difference” between her and Seth Williams with respect to the death penalty. When it was his turn, Williams carefully responded to this explaining the role the DA plays in choosing to seek the death penalty in individual cases and saying he will do so far less often than Abraham does. (The specific case he mentioned where he would seek the death penalty was a cop-killer case, which I imagine is related to his endorsement by the FOP). In addition, Williams highlighted that the current DAs office gets about 50% of their cases dismissed due to lack of preparedness. He explained how the horizontal structure of the DA system (in which prosecutors regularly get their cases the night before) is problematic and laid out a plan for restructuring/reforming this system into a vertical system called community based prosecution, which according to Temple News (03/29/05): “means cases will be tried by detectives and ADAs who are divided by sections of the city. These teams will work together throughout the entire legal process and will be able to cultivate relationships within their assigned neighborhood. As supporters of this plan point out, needs vary between different sections of the city, so if ADAs consistently deal with a specific community they will be better able to identity and deal with its unique problems.”
I found his arguments convincing and well formulated. He emphasized his history as a Philadelphia resident and his understanding of the way the city is made up of neighborhoods and the importance of that with respect to thinking about crime prevention and response.