July 22, 1988 |
Cops call it "the tank," a grimy subterranean cage in the Police Administration Building. Nearly everyone arrested in Philadelphia waits there - sometimes up to a day - to be arraigned by a city bail commissioner. Most, their advocates say, spend 18 to 22 hours crowded into a cell with about 50 prisoners, dining on cold egg sandwiches and coffee, unable to phone lawyers or get medical help. After nearly two years of vain talk about reform, the Defender Association of Philadelphia yesterday filed a federal class-action lawsuit against the city and top police and court officials, alleging that up to 38,000 people a year are subjected to "illegal and unconstitutional" confinement and "unnecessary delay" before being arraigned.
March 25, 2004 |
Jurors in the rape and murder case of 6-year-old Destiny Wright remained sequestered a second night while the Pennsylvania Supreme Court considered yesterday whether a public defender should be forced to continue to represent the man accused of the crime. Assistant Defender Andrea Konow has refused to proceed with the trial of Abdul Malik El-Shabazz after he punched her cocounsel, Assistant Defender Fred Goodman, during trial on Monday. Common Pleas Court Judge Jane Cutler Greenspan found Konow in contempt and jailed her on Tuesday.
April 21, 1990 |
The rape victim's mother broke down on the witness stand in Common Pleas Court. "You're lucky the cops found you before I did, because you would be dead," she shouted to admitted rapist David Hall, 21, a security guard. I want to see you dead. I hope you never forget, because I won't. God knows you should be ashamed. " Hall, of 56th Street near Girard Avenue, was in court yesterday to be sentenced for raping a 9-year-old girl in an abandoned home on Jan. 5, 1989, when he decided to plead guilty to breaking into the woman's home on July 12, 1988, and attacking her daughter as she slept on a couch.
December 5, 1986
You thought Philadelphia's bench had enough troubles? "What next?" you thought. Well, here's what next: The rulings of Common Pleas Court Judge Mary Rose Fante Cunningham - all of them since February - are being challenged because she has been playing ball, secretly until recently, with federal prosecutors. The city-funded defenders agency has thrown down this latest gauntlet, arguing there can be no justice when a judge trying to save her own skin as an FBI informant is - at the same time - passing judgment on defendants that prosecutors want to see locked up. There are arguments on the other side, chief among them the fact that Judge Cunningham (who has acknowledged taking cash from the Roofers Union and recording conversations with fellow judges)
July 3, 2001 |
A Delaware County Court judge has vacated the death sentence of Angel Reyes, 56, a former Chester resident convicted of first-degree murder for drowning his 4-year-old daughter in Ridley Creek to spite the girl's mother in May 1993. Reyes' first-degree murder conviction still stands, but Judge Frank T. Hazel ordered a new sentencing hearing, saying defense counsel was ineffective for failing to provide relevant evidence to the jury during the trial's penalty phase. His decision followed several lengthy post-conviction hearings that included testimony from doctors and Reyes' relatives in Puerto Rico who described Reyes' mental problems and the abuse and dire poverty that he endured while growing up on the island.
December 15, 2009
For years, the Philadelphia court system has had trouble doing something basic: getting inmates from state prison into the courtroom to appear either as defendants or witnesses. Now, that "bring-down problem" is being fixed. Before the fix, city officials routinely canceled inmates' trips to the courts because Philadelphia didn't have enough local cells to hold them during trials. This summer, state prison officials agreed to reserve cells at Graterford Prison in Montgomery County as temporary holding places for inmates subpoenaed to court.
June 10, 1992 |
Is the quality of justice tempered by money? Consider Philadelphia, where a study found: A district attorney's office that tries to keep African-Americans from serving on juries where their peers face the death penalty. Private attorneys who take on capital cases for poor people are usually denied money for expert witnesses to defend their clients. A judicial system in which a lot of money is spent prosecuting poor people charged with homicide and very little is spent defending them.
March 24, 2004 |
A Philadelphia public defender who refused to proceed in a death-penalty murder trial was jailed for contempt for about six hours yesterday until an appeals court judge sent her home. Superior Court Judge Richard B. Klein also ordered that either Assistant Defender Andrea Konow or her cocounsel Assistant Defender Fred Goodman be prepared to proceed today in the defense of Abdul Malik El-Shabazz, or take their appeal to the state Supreme Court. El-Shabazz, accused of the 2002 rape and suffocation slaying of 6-year-old Destiny Wright in Kensington, jumped up and punched Goodman in the face Monday after the prosecutor rested her case.
May 10, 1990 |
Benjamin Lerner, who for 15 years as chief of the Defender Association of Philadelphia has been an advocate for indigent defendants, is resigning to join a private law firm. Lerner, 48, announced his resignation, effective June 30, at a staff meeting yesterday afternoon. Edward W. Madeira Jr., chairman of the association board, said the board would appoint an acting director while conducting a nationwide search. Lerner told staff members that he thought that Ellen T. Greenlee, first assistant defender, would likely be the interim director.
November 18, 1986 |
Police assigned to handle prisoners in the holding unit and the arraignment court at the Police Administration Building routinely neglect and mistreat people in their care, the head of the Defender Association of Philadelphia charged yesterday. "There is a uniform lack of concern about defendants as individuals or human beings from the time the defendants are picked up to the time of arraignment," Benjamin Lerner said in an interview yesterday. The Defender Association is a pool of lawyers who are paid by the state to represent people facing criminal charges who cannot afford their own lawyers.