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October 3, 2023

Judge’s Ruling Reminds of JFK’s ‘Profiles in Courage’

Judge Wendy L. Pew dismissed all charges against Philadelphia Police Officer Mark Dial.

John F. Kennedy’s book “Profiles in Courage” told the story of a rare, few U.S. senators who went against the tide of popular opinion and committed acts that ultimately led to severe criticism and in some cases, political defeat.

The names are at best vaguely remembered and in some cases lost to history, but the idea of defying societal standards in service of a higher purpose i.e. “doing the right thing” as Spike Lee might say, is fundamental.

I thought of the book this week when Judge Wendy L. Pew dismissed all charges against Philadelphia Police Officer Mark Dial.

Dial had been charged with murder and other lesser offenses by Philadelphia District Attorney Larry Krasner, a man who has weaponized his office against the police department as a means of advancing his “social justice” philosophy.

Krasner’s focus is on dismantling the supposedly racist criminal justice system, emptying jails, and providing “restorative justice” to those who have been harmed by the bigotry of people who think felons belong in prison. It’s a philosophy common among a new breed of prosecutors who are really just lesser-paid criminal defense attorneys in disguise.

This past Tuesday, Pew dismissed the charges against Dial because she found they had no evidentiary basis. People, with no legal training but with a lot of social media savvy, have argued that the judge overlooked video evidence, eyewitness testimony and departed from accepted standards when dismissing the charges, which were immediately lodged again by Krasner.

In the Twittersphere, activists started aiming for the judge, leveling thinly veiled threats about taking her seat from her in the upcoming election. And there were some more ominous threats as well.

On the evening of the dismissal, riots erupted in the streets of Philadelphia. I was caught up in one of them near 15th and Chestnut streets in Center City, where a group of unhinged vandals and what I like to call “Flat Screen And Sneaker Activists” plundered local stores, carrying their booty in their arms like refugees fleeing some sort of civil war.

Only they were the ones causing the mayhem and the conflict.

Judge Pew isn’t as fortunate. She works in a courtroom, protected by layers of security, but her name has been out there and unwisely cited by a number of local publications that, while entitled to distribute the news, could have done so in a more measured way.

Then we had local journalists whom I will not name but with whom I used to work tweeting out videos about how horrific it was that Dial was allowed to walk, and writing that they were “beyond outrage.”

I understand being “beyond outrage.” I was beyond outrage when I was forced to navigate through a mob of vandals, and a phalanx of police officers to get to my home on Tuesday night.

I was beyond outraged that the legitimate dismissal of charges triggered a night of riots and looting.

I was beyond outraged that the actions of a judge, after due deliberation and with a deep understanding of the rights of defendants, have been attacked as just another example of racism.

Ironically, the day that the charges were dismissed against Dial, I was watching a docuseries from my friend Tigre Hill on Paramount+ called “72 Seconds in Rittenhouse,” which recounts the murder of Sean Schellenger at the hands of Michael White.

When Schellenger, a real estate agent was stabbed in the back by White, a food service deliveryman, the case became a Rohrshack test on race, class and due process.

I am quoted in the series praising Frank Rizzo, whose idea of policing is now considered antiquated in this “kinder to the criminal, gentler on the crime” era.

While many people would disagree with my assessment of the former police commissioner/mayor, I think that the sharp swing to the other extreme represented by Larry Krasner and the progressive prosecutors is profoundly damaging to society.

That is why what Pew did is both remarkable and courageous.

She clearly understood the tenor of the city, and the desire for a pound of flesh from a police officer.

It’s no secret that Krasner has been waging war on police for the past six years, ever since he was first elected to office. She also clearly understood where many progressive Philadelphians stand on criminal justice reform.

And yet she honored our shared profession by not allowing emotions or security concerns to blind her to the reality: Krasner had overcharged Dial, and his evidence didn’t add up.

She had two choices: ignore that and go forward with the case or terminate the legal farce.

Her actions were a profile in courage, and since she is barred from speaking out about her actions, I will do it for her: well done, your honor.

Thank you for refusing to be intimidated by social narratives, and for following the law.

Copyright 2023 Christine Flowers

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