Philadelphia district attorney Seth Williams moved quickly after he took office earlier this year to enact promised changes, and one change starts right at the beginning.
KYW’s Tony Hanson reports every criminal prosecution starts in room B-7 in the basement of the Criminal Justice Center, the DA’s ‘charging unit’, where attorneys review evidence and approve charges. Well, DA Seth Williams says this unit had been a rubber stamp for charges proposed by police, defendants were overcharged, and most felony cases were dismissed at the preliminary hearing.
But Williams has tripled the staff to 15 seasoned attorneys working 24/7. And unit chief Jodi Lobel says there are new protocols:
“We ask ourselves very frequently ‘is this enough to charge the case?’ but we also have to think ‘is this enough try the case?’ ”
So now the DA requires more investigation up front. Lobel says many cases are sent back to police for more investigation and, she says, it makes for stronger cases, more leverage in pre-trial negotiations, and ultimately, according to Williams, the benefit is justice.