Philly DA Asks Judge To Retroactively Change Law To Help Convict Cop Of Murder

Holly Matkin

Philadelphia District Attorney Larry Krasner's office has taken issue with the wording of the state's use-of-force law.

Philadelphia, PA – Philadelphia District Attorney Larry Krasner’s office has asked a judge to establish new case law, then apply it retroactively, to increase their odds of securing a murder conviction against a now-former police officer who fatally shot a fleeing felon in 2017.

In a recent motion, Assistant District Attorney Tracy Tripp alleged that Pennsylvania’s current police use-of-force law violates accused criminals’ Fourth Amendment rights against unreasonable search and seizure, and that it also violates the State Constitution, The Philadelphia Inquirer reported.

However, current law explicitly allows officers to shoot fleeing felons who pose a danger to the community.

The district attorney’s office specifically took issue with that section of the law that says cops can shoot suspects who “committed or attempted a forcible felony or is attempting to escape and possesses a deadly weapon, or otherwise indicates that he will endanger human life or inflict serious bodily injury unless arrested without delay.”

Tripp argued that the way the law was written authorizes law enforcement to use deadly force in certain situations “even if he does not believe such force is necessary to prevent death or serious bodily injury,” The Philadelphia Inquirer reported.

The district attorney’s office said it did not ask the court to rule on the constitutionality of the use-of-force law, but that it did request that the judge instruct jurors to “interpret the statute in a constitutional manner” with regards to the third-degree murder charge against former Philadelphia Police Officer Ryan Pownall, according to The Philadelphia Inquirer.

Pownall’s attorneys blasted the prosecutor’s ploy in a scathing response on Wednesday.

“This may be the first time in Pennsylvania’s history that an elected district attorney intentionally ignored the law in bringing charges against a peace officer, and then sought judicial intervention in changing the law before a trial on those unlawfully brought charges,” attorney Fortunato Perri wrote, according to The Philadelphia Inquirer.

Perri said that the district attorney’s office was attempting to change the law “on the eve” of Pownall’s trial, in a “truly unimaginable” and “thinly veiled attempt to bolster its weak case,” according to the paper.

Temple University law professor Jules Epstein said that “fundamental due process issues” would be created if the judge opts to alter the law and to apply those changes retroactively to Pownall’s case, The Philadelphia Inquirer reported.

Duquesne University law professor Bruce Ledewitz noted that allegations of civil rights violations can be addressed through civil lawsuits, and said that states are not mandated to establish criminal penalties for alleged violations of the constitution, according to the paper.

Pownall is the first Philadelphia police officer to be charged with murder for a line-of-duty encounter in nearly 20 years, WHYY reported.

Prosecutors initially asked a grand jury to charge Pownall with criminal homicide in the death of 30-year-old David Jones, which would have allowed a trial jury to consider a range of offenses, including first-degree murder.

The judge ultimately lowered the charge to third-degree murder, WHYY reported.

Officer Pownall, 37, was fired by the department in September of 2017, after an internal investigation determined that he had committed “serious policy violations” during the altercation with Jones, Philadelphia Police Commissioner Richard Ross told WPHT at the time.

The incident occurred on June 8, 2017, when Officer Pownall spotted Jones illegally riding a dirt bike and cutting through lanes of traffic on Whitaker Avenue, CNN reported.

During the traffic stop that followed, Officer Pownall felt a gun in Jones’ waistband, at which point Jones began fighting with him and refused to comply, WPHT reported.

“[Pownall] encountered someone who is armed with an unlawful pistol, pulled that pistol from his waist, a struggle ensued,” Pownall’s attorney, Fortunato Perri told CNN.

During the fight, Officer Pownall drew his weapon and attempted to shoot Jones in the head, but the gun jammed, according to court documents.

At that point, Jones broke away from him and began to run away. The officer opened fire, hitting Jones twice in the back.

Jones was transported to a local hospital, where he was pronounced dead.

Investigators determined that Officer Pownall’s first attempted shot – which jammed – was justified, but that the subsequent rounds were not, WPHT reported.

Commissioner Ross acknowledged that Officer Pownall believed Jones was still armed when he opened fire, although Jones had tossed his weapon as he was running away.

“Because Jones never looked back at Pownall and had nothing in his hands, he posed no imminent threat to Pownall,” the commissioner said, despite his understanding that Officer Pownall thought Jones still had a gun. “Jones also used poor judgment as well when he carried a gun illegally, rode a motorcycle that is illegal to operate on a city street and refused to comply with Pownall’s orders.”

Jones was prohibited from possessing firearms due to his prior felony convictions, The Inquirer reported.

Krasner said that surveillance video showed that Jones was 10 feet away from the officer when he was hit by the second round, and was 35 feet away from the officer when he was struck by the third round, WPHT reported.

“Jones was searched at the scene, no gun was recovered on his person,” Krasner said.

His discarded gun was located nearby, however.

“At the time of Jones' flight, Jones was not a danger to anyone," he added, according to CNN. "Jones' death was not necessary to secure the apprehension of Jones."

Krasner said that bringing the charges against Pownall was a demonstration in “applying justice even-handedly,” and said it was “regrettably unusual” that officers aren’t criminal charged more often, The Inquirer reported.

“This is a city, like many other American cities, where there has not been accountability for activity by police officers in uniform, especially when that activity involves violence against civilians," the former defense lawyer lamented.

Krasner also touched on the issue of race with regards to the incident, according to CNN.

"What I see is that we have a case in which the officer is white. I can see that we have a case in which the man who was shot to death is black," he said. "I cannot tell you and will not tell you that I have any particular reason to believe that this officer was a racist or that this officer was operating from any kind of racial animosity."

Pownall, who served the department for 12 years, was also charged with endangering another person and possession of an instrument of crime for firing his service weapon in the direction of traffic.

Pownall’s family, Perri, and the Fraternal Order of Police blasted Krasner in the wake of his announcement.

“Today’s meritless indictment clearly illustrates a DA who had an anti-law enforcement agenda,” FOP Lodge 5 President John McNesby said during a press conference, according to WPHT.

“Officer Pownall was justified in his actions that night,” Perri agreed, according to CNN. "The evidence will clearly show that based on the facts and circumstance that will be presented at a trial, that he was legally completely justified in his actions and he will be exonerated of all charges."

Jones’ father, Thomas Jones, cited Pownall’s involvement in an earlier officer-involved shooting as a “big red flag” that showed a history of him making “a mistake on the job,” CNN reported.

That incident took place in July of 2010, when Officer Pownall and his partner encountered recently-released prison inmate Carnell Williams-Carney.

Williams-Carney was armed with a gun, and the officers opened fire as he attempted to run away from them.

One round struck Williams-Carney in the back, paralyzing him below the waist.

“I understand some people make mistakes,” Thomas told CNN. “If it was your first time, maybe, you know, it was a mistake on the job. But two times the same situation? Really. That raises a big red flag."

The shooting was determined to be justified, not a mistake.

In 2018, the City of Philadelphia entered into a $1 million settlement with Jones’ family outside of court in lieu of a civil lawsuit, WHYY reported.

Pownall’s murder trial is slated to begin in January of 2020, according to The Philadelphia Inquirer.

Comments (29)

“If it was your first time, maybe, you know, it was a mistake on the job. But two times the same situation? Really. That raises a big red flag."

Yeah...funny how cops keep running into convicted felons carrying guns. Very strange. Duh.

No. 1-18

Just what we need! A law that insures a felon a "gun free" escape route.

Cop Watch
Cop Watch

the DA is tired of cops breaking the law and killing people!

time for new regulations! if a cop is arrested for a crime, then there min sentence is 2X the max as there min. sentence! we already know piggy unions won't like it and claim that it is unconstitutional and cops are there to uphold the law instead of breaking it! or it will affect morality and be detrimental to pigs. so if the pigs don't break the law then they have nothing to worry about!


If I was a police officer in Philly I`d just ride around all day and never lift a finger to go after the bad guy...for what, be brought up on charges like this officer ! Why was this fine young man running from the cops ?? Oh,now I remember was a drive by shooting and they found guns in the car..


Go ahead! This will never pass the smell test on appeal!

03Crayon Eater41
03Crayon Eater41

Felon ran, felon shot.

Where is the "mistake"?

Know your laws.

You know what I wouldn't do in Philly, if I was a felon???

Run from the fucking police!!!

Play stupid games, win stupid prizes.

100% lawful. #CaseClosed


The insanity continues.... Thanks OBAMA And Soros who is pumping millons into DA races across the country to go after the police

The DemoRATS are grabbing votes anyway they can....

From illegal immigration

To granting felons voting rights

To releasing criminals from jail 150,000 in Jan 2020

And now this...

The country is finally seeing the Demo RAT playbook

From slavery, their KKK, to “Planned kill em all Parenthood” To voting against civil rights To voting against woman’s right to vote

Just look at the documented facts of history


So basically what they want the law in Penn. to say is: If you are an illegally armed, dangerous, violent felon just run away and the police can’t touch you. You get a free pass. Combine that with Oregon’s Supreme Court decision making it illegal for police to ask about anything other than what they stopped someone for and New York’s “let everyone go without bail” law/“please show up for your court date and we’ll give you tickets to a ball game”. And DA’s all over the country publicly refusing to prosecute many violations of the law... Seems they are trying to create anarchy. To what end? So they can swoop in and impose their “socialist” society, which would then result in creating an actual government/police state?


Dont charge the officer


Krasner, a lawyer for another activist group, has continued this crusade of helping dangerous criminals escape punishment and prosecute officers following procedure and state law. An officer may use force, including deadly force, to stop a fleeing felon who poses an immediate risk to the public. What words don't they understand? The officer was stopping the suspect from hurting persons nearby. Case closed. The fact race was brought up indicates how biased Krasner and his cronies are. I am surprised he had time to bring up this new scheme; I thought he was spending taxpayers money trying to free Daniel Faulkner's killer.


Why do people who should back up Police Officers who save people by shooting someone likely to kill people, go to such extremes to make life difficult for those of us who do. The only time I ever shot someone, everything worked out fine. Years later, though, when I talked to my friend who was dying of a disease, the Investigator from the DA's Office, told me that there were people in the DA's Office, who asked him, "Couldn't the Officer have done something other than shooting him?"


This DA is a POS!!! Probably on the Soros payroll!!


Soros got Krasner elected by pouring millions into the race. Now they have Krasner who would stop at NOTHING to bury a police officer. Krasner's time has run out. I know that and so does everyone else. Time to go!


GEO SOROS IS THE REAL AND TRUE VILLIAN HE IS SPENDING HIS BILLIONS TO 'ELECT' MORE RADICAL DAs LIKE KRASNER, KIM FOXX AND MANY MORE. This is his entire program, in conjunction with Hillary, obama, michelle ...susan rice, all of them. Best get out to the next election or this will land up finishing off this country.


If it was a felon that harmed anyone in his family you can bet he(DA) wouldn't be asking the Judge this idiotic question !


This ass clown DA (let them walk larry) is on a LIBERAL Short list for Supreme Court Appointments. FRIGGIN COP HATER


i'm sick of this DA and the mayor. Krasner describes himself as a "defense attorney with power" if i lived in the city i'd vote his ass out. The city has gone deeper and deeper down the shithole