In a four-part series, "Justice: Delayed, Dismissed, Denied," published in December, The Inquirer revealed a Philadelphia court system in crisis, plagued by some of the nation's lowest conviction rates, rampant witness intimidation, a massive number of fugitives, and the dismissal of thousands of cases each year without any ruling on the merits.
Since the articles were published, the Pennsylvania Supreme Court, District Attorney Seth Williams, and others have begun pushing for sweeping changes in the system. Developments so far:
The Supreme Court has appointed a committee and hired consultants to recommend ways to overhaul the courts.
The state Senate Judiciary Committee, after holding hearings on issues raised by the newspaper, has moved to create a parallel investigative panel to recommend changes.
Williams has newly emphasized conviction statistics, called for "zone court" prosecutions of criminals by neighborhood, and relaxed penalties in marijuana cases to concentrate on more serious crimes.
Federal prosecutors have announced they will pursue U.S. charges against an alleged gunpoint robber highlighted in the series - a man who had beaten 44 arrests in the city system.
After holding hearings in response to the Inquirer series, U.S. Sen. Arlen Specter (D., Pa.) has proposed legislation to make it a federal crime to threaten witnesses in state courts.
Specter has pressured the U.S. Marshals Service to devote more staff to catching Philadelphia court fugitives. He has also pushed for $200 million in new national funding to go after absconders.
Chief Justice Ronald D. Castille of the Pennsylvania Supreme Court and fellow Justice Seamus McCaffery have imposed tough new court rules, ordering judges to work harder, giving prosecutors more time to mount cases, and prohibiting judges from dismissing cases quickly.
To read the Inquirer series, use interactive media, and see follow-up articles, go to www.philly.com/courts