Outcry from the police killing of Antwon Rose and the urgent need to reform the criminal justice system prompted a public defender to enter the political race for district attorney in Pittsburgh.
Attorney Turahn Jenkins announced his candidacy on Monday (July 2) for Allegheny County district attorney, WPXI-TV reported.
District Attorney Stephen Zappala charged East Pittsburgh Police Officer Michael Rosfeld on June 27 with homicide for killing the 17-year-old unarmed Rose, who was Black, on June 19. But that wasn’t enough. Many in the Black community complained that there’s widespread racial bias in Pittsburgh’s criminal justice system.
“People are screaming for help,” Jenkins told the Pittsburgh Gazette on Monday regarding his decision to enter the race, prompted by the police killing of Rose and the angry protests that followed. “I saw years of frustration. And disappointment. And anger. And helplessness.”
Jenkins is a former assistant DA who now serves as chief deputy director in the Allegheny County Public Defender’s office. He’s the first opponent in a primary or general election to challenge Zappala, who has held the office since 1997, according to Politics PA.
Jenkins’ candidacy can be viewed as part of a nationwide movement to reform the criminal justice system during the Trump administration, which has pursued a law-and-order policy that includes rescinding Obama-era police reform initiatives. A key strategy of the movement has been to support reform-minded district attorney candidates.
“Right now we’re in a crisis. We have people that are overcharged, people sitting in jail with petty offenses, low level non-violent offenders. And the district attorney — they view this as a win-win. …It’s all about convictions and not about justice,” Jenkins said at his announcement rally, Think Progress reported.