Philadelphia Judges Reject Some of New DA’s Plea Deals

It’s rare for a judge to reject a plea bargain, but it’s happening in some cases involving juvenile lifers negotiated by new Philadelphia District Attorney Larry Krasner.

Philadelphia District Attorney Larry Krasner is seeking shorter sentences for people convicted of crimes by offering deals at or below the minimum sentencing guidelines. Some judges are rejecting the deals, reports The policy is being tested in the cases of about to 180 juvenile lifers awaiting new sentences under the U.S. Supreme Court ruling that found automatic life-without-parole for minors unconstitutional. Krasner has offered deals making the lifers immediately eligible for parole, but judges are turning some of them down.

That’s left  observers wondering about the fate not only of the juvenile lifers, but also of Krasner’s progressive vision on sentencing reform. “This court will not impose the negotiated sentence,” Judge Kathryn Streeter-Lewis said in the case of Avery Talmadge, who had agreed on a 22-years-to-life deal over a 1996 fatal street fight. The judge turned down two other similar deals. Despite the vast size of Philadelphia’s criminal justice system, only about 2,500 cases per year go to trial. Four times that many are settled through negotiated pleas. Each one requires judicial approval. Experts say it’s extraordinarily rare for judges to reject such deals.