Relatives of slain Philadelphia Police Sgt. Robert Wilson III said Wednesday that they are outraged at the way District Attorney Larry Krasner has handled the prosecution of Wilson's accused killers and called for the state Attorney General's Office to take over the case.
Their frustration boiled over after Common Pleas Court Judge J. Scott O'Keefe announced that the trial of Carlton Hipps and Ramone Williams, which had been scheduled for April, was being delayed until November because defense attorneys had requested more time to investigate. Prosecutors did not oppose the request. Neither side specified why the additional time was needed.
Wilson's family said there was "no reason" for Krasner's office to agree with defense attorneys on an extension just weeks before trial — and they questioned whether Krasner could be objective in handling the case given his relationship with Michael Coard, an attorney for Hipps. Coard was a key ally of Krasner's during the campaign and served on Krasner's transition team.
"It's appalling what they're doing," Shaki'ra Wilson-Burroughs said outside the Criminal Justice Center while surrounded by her family. "What else is needed for [Wilson] to get justice?"
Krasner's office issued a statement Wednesday saying that it "is committed to fighting for justice in the horrific murder of Sgt. Wilson. DA Krasner, who already met with some members of Sgt. Wilson's family, understands their trauma and continues to extend his support and condolences during this difficult time."
The office added that Coard was one of many people on the transition team.
"Larry has not spoken to Mr. Coard about this case or any other criminal cases since becoming district attorney. Mr. Coard has no formal or informal role in the DA's Office. Our prosecutors will continue to operate in an independent and ethical manner on all cases," the statement said.
Police Commissioner Richard Ross, who attended the hearing, said he understood the family's disappointment over the postponement. Wilson was shot dead in 2015 at a GameStop store in North Philadelphia during a robbery attempt. His actions were described by the mayor and former commissioner as heroic.
"They're visibly upset, for good reason," Ross said. "I can't imagine how frustrating this must be."
John McNesby, president of Fraternal Order of Police Lodge 5, who also attended, called the trial's delay "a disgrace." He said the union was exploring whether it could take action to seek to have the case prosecuted by another office.
Left unsaid at Wednesday's hearing was whether Krasner's office will continue seeking the death penalty against Hipps and Williams, who are brothers. Krasner said on the campaign trail that he would never seek capital punishment, but his office's statement in the Wilson case said a final decision had not been made.
"As of today, the office is continuing to review the case through the office's Homicide Sentencing Committee. It remains a death penalty case at this time," the statement said.
Wilson's relatives, along with McNesby and Ross, believe the accused gunmen should be tried in a capital case.