I wanted to specifically respond to the disgusting editorial by Christine Flowers in the Philadelphia Inquirer, which was written comparing the shooting of Traevon Martin to Sean Schellinger. The article inserted the concept of race, and exploited the racial tension already existing in Philadelphia in order to make a lackluster argument “histrionic.”
Something incredible transpired in a Philadelphia Courtroom this week on Tuesday night. As supporters from both sides filled up the courtroom till it was standing room only, the media huddled tapping on their cell phones and whispering. A black man had shot a white man, it was time to bring out the noose.
The problem was that there is video of the incident, and the Philadelphia District Attorney (a former Defense lawyer) is somewhat immune to the race card, as he grew up in Philadelphia and has practiced law in Philadelphia for many years.
Schellinger, a wealthy socialite, was stabbed in Rittenhouse square, which is the richest neighborhood in Philadelphia. He got out of a stopped Mercedes (purportedly) in a beligerent state, and was met face to face with a black guy on a bicycle delivering food. His intentions were to yell at the vehicle in front of him for holding up traffic. A verbal altercation with the driver ensued.
The entire exchange and the murder was caught on camera and has made front page Philadelphia news consistently. Krasner’s team has been extremely involved in police investigation. They were silent on the matter, even while the press raged, till they were able to review the footage of the murder and all the evidence.
Then they had very unpopular news. They had watched the tapes and Schellinger, drunk and high on cocaine, had instigated the altercation with Michael White. Michael White who was delivering food on his bicycle was eligable for the “stand your ground defense,” the same defense used by the white shooter in the Traevon Martin case.
Schelinger’s wealthy family was horrified. With all their political connections, how could this happen to them? It was inconcievable, and the day following the hearing Schellinger’s mother took to the press and said just that. She claimed she felt “manipulated” by Larry Krasner.
Rewind back to the Wednesday morning hearing…..
In court, Krasner spoke with the victim’s mother, Linda. He said they’ve been in regular contact, whether that be in person or on the phone. “I wanted to make sure she was aware of everything that was happening,” Krasner said. “I wanted to make sure there were no surprises. … This is a case where the (victim’s) mother has been incredibly gracious.”
Krasner had likely relayed to the victim’s family that there would be no first degree murder charge filed against Michael White prior to the hearing, where he was charged with lesser offenses and granted $150,000 bail.
Larry Krasner had personally seen the tapes of the “murder,” and made a determination. This was a “stand your ground” incident. There was no murder, the tapes spoke for themselves. It was self defense. Had Michael White been a white man, instead of a black man, I believe Krasner would have come to the same conclusion.
How typical of Philadelphia to insert race and money into this case? Social media ROARED, how could this wealthy socialite business man be killed in one of the safest neighborhoods in Philadelphia, by a black man on a bike, and their District Attorney drop the first degree murder charges.
Michael White had fully anticipated a lifetime behind bars. The Philadelphia Inquierer notes he started shaking his head when he learned what he was charged with. Supporters of Schellinger were horrified at the gesture, and took to twitter to express their outrage.
Michael White’s pastor was also present in the court room and offered a different explanation for White shaking his head as the lesser charges were read and bail was granted. He said 21 year old Michael White was just in shock: “He knew it was happening when he walked into the courtroom this morning,” family spokesman Greg Thompson said Wednesday. “He couldn’t believe it was happening until he heard it, though.”
Trembling white put his head in his hands and shook his head as the Judge announced the decision, siding with the District Attorney. Members of the D.A.’s office were clustered around the victims family, comforting them, as tears of outrage filled Schellinger’s mother’s eyes. Collective expressions belied grief – with tissues wiping tears from faces – along with anger and astonishment that the lives of those involved had taken this tragic turn. There were no outbursts when the reduced charges were announced, and seemingly few to no words were exchanged between the sides.
Krasner took to the airwaves immediately after the hearing, and was his usual straight shooting scrappy Philly attorney personality. He kept it short, acknowledging that of course people would be critical, but emphasizing that the evidence just did not support the charges. He was seemingly aware there would be blowback, but didn’t care what got set about him. He reviewed the tapes, saw the evidence, and wasn’t going to overcharge for political reasons just because the family was well connected. He specified that there was a continued investigation, but in the tapes and clips online you can see Schellinger’s family, friends and supporters very emotional, shuffling out of court staring at Krasner in angry shock and disbelief as he delivered his explanation to the news outlets.
“It is relevant both that the defendant ran at the time of the incident, hid for a couple days, and turned himself in,” Krasner said, noting that White allegedly threw the knife used to kill Schellenger onto a rooftop, but later told investigators where it was.
Krasner was aware the decision to drop the charges would lead to some racial tensions and political outrage. Somehow in the shooting of Traevon Martin, when a white man claimed “self defense” it seemed so viable to the constituents of Florida that the shooting was justifiable. Now when a poor black man claims “self defense” after shooting a wealthy white man, people can’t seem to wrap their heads around it. Krasner refused to offer any commentary about the race, it wasn’t important to him.
He was asked about critics who maintain that his leniency with criminal defendants led to downgraded charges for White. “Were they witnesses? Have they seen one piece of evidence? Did they witness the incident? Have they read a statement from a witness?” he asked. “This is an office that follows the evidence where it leads, and it is not surprising to me that critics who know nothing have everything to say.”
Bishop Ernest McNear of True Gospel Tabernacle Family Church helped arrange White’s surrender several days after the incident. He also fielded questions after the hearing alongside family spokesman Greg Thompson. “One of the things that Michael has said is that people should not go to jail for defending themselves. People should have the right to defend themselves, and the persons who perpetrate these things, they are the people who are supposed to be punished,” Thompson said. “That’s why he’s totally confused, because he was defending himself from these three individuals. He thought that the system was not going to work for him,” he said. “What you saw was just disbelief.”
The Philadelphia Inquierer also notes that White had never been in any trouble or convicted of a crime. A Krasner spokesperson said that the Schellingers were made aware prior to the hearing of what Krasner intended to do. Since being in office, Krasner’s been a noisy District Attorney in his renegade policy changes overturning the operations of the Philadelphia District Attorney’s office, but he has seldom really appeared in court. I believe he knew this issue, and this decision, was going to be one that led to public contraversary, so he took the time and handled it himself. In private practice he was a regular fixture in Philadelphia criminal and civil courts, so he knew what the social implications were going to be to his decision and he also knew how to handle the media, supporters of the victim and the Judge, who did not contest his decision, but quickly gave way trusting his insight and integrity that he had reviewed the evidence.
Legal experts/talking heads pontificate that third degree murder charges may also be dropped. The preliminary is scheduled for the end of October. The City of Philadelphia is reeling and confused. The racial issues that Krasner ignored (not relevant) have taken center stage in the discussion. White’s pastor indicated to the press, that with the newly low bail amount, White would be out within the week.
Schellinger’s family, with all their money and political connections, had expected some royal treatment. Schellinger’s mother took to the media outlets on Thursday, where she expressed some strongly worded criticism on Larry Krasner. Krasner has been silent on the issue ever since, and did not respond.