Tuesday, October 11, 2022

Clown Show: Judge Tosses D.A.'s Faulty Murder Case Against Cop

Photo credit: Tony Spading
By Ralph Cipriano
for BigTrial.net

The clown show that is the Philadelphia District Attorney's office was fully exposed this afternoon in the courtroom of Common Pleas Court Judge Barbara McDermott.

At the end of a more than two-hour hearing, McDermott ruled that the D.A.'s Aug. 23, 2018 grand jury indictment of former police officer Ryan Pownall for murder was riddled with so many legal errors that she was quashing the grand jury's report, known as a presentment because it was "no good" and it's "conclusions cannot be relied on."

What was so wrong with the grand jury presentment that indicted Pownall for murder in the racially-charged 2017 shooting death of dirt biker David Jones?

Well for starters, the grand jury was run by former Assistant District Attorney Tracy Tripp, who, depending upon your viewpoint, was either [a] totally incompetent or [b] corrupt, or [c], the correct answer, both totally incompetent and corrupt.  

In the Pownall case, Krasner, who had just taken office in January 2018, was looking for the first cop he could publicly hang for murder. And that happened to be Ryan Pownall, who fatally shot Jones, who was armed and on the run, while attempting to escape arrest.

For Krasner, the scheming arsonist, it was a perfect case to make headlines because Pownall was white and Jones was black. But the problem was that Krasner's office is so lame and inept that Krasner relied on Tripp to do the job. And operating behind the closed doors of the grand jury, the rookie prosecutor completely botched the hit.

For Tripp, a former public defender who joined Krasner's office in February, 2018, running the Pownall grand jury was [a] her first grand jury investigation and [b] her first murder case.

The only qualification that Tripp the novice prosecutor had to be a running a grand jury investigation of a former cop for murder was that she was a true believer. Like Krasner, the progressive reformer who hates cops, Tripp was all in on wanting to nail one of them for murder.

The problem was that when Tripp ran the grand jury, she failed, as was required by law, to tell the grand jury the elements that constituted the various legal charges the grand jury was considering against Pownall, such as murder, or voluntary or involuntary manslaughter.

Tripp, according to the judge, failed to educate the grand jurors on the key difference in the law that separates murder from manslaughter -- namely whether Pownall was acting with malice when he fatally shot Jones. 

Tripp also didn't inform the grand jury of the section of the law involving a police officer's justifiable use of force, which would have given Pownall a complete defense against any murder charge.

Judge McDermott isn't the only judge to rip the D.A.'s office for their conduct in the Pownall case.

In July, State Supreme Court Justice Kevin Dougherty publicly charged Krasner with abusing the grand jury process to produce a "tainted" grand jury report for the sole purpose of tarring and feathering Pownall in the media before the case ever went to trial. 

According to Dougherty, the D.A.'s office under Krasner was “driven by a win-at-all-cost office culture” that "treats police officers differently than other criminal defendants."

"This is the antithesis of what the law expects of a prosecutor," Dougherty wrote, adding that under the law, a prosecutor is supposed to be a "minister of justice."
And former homicide detective Derrick Jacobs has also charged Tripp with corruption in a federal whistleblower lawsuit. In the lawsuit, Jacobs stated that Tripp wanted Jacobs, who had investigated the Pownall case on behalf of the Philadelphia Police Department and cleared Pownall, to change his story. And when he refused, Jacobs charged in his whistleblower lawsuit, Tripp threatened to arrest him on false charges.

In Jacobs' view, Pownall did nothing wrong after he stopped Jones on the street for illegally driving his dirt bike while recklessly weaving in and out of traffic.

"Jones was armed," Jacobs previously told Big Trial. And during the fight between Jones and Pownall, "Pownall believed he was shooting Jones to protect himself" as well as a witness and two children whom Pownall was transporting to the D.A.'s office when he stopped dirt biker Jones out on the street.

Today's hearing began when former Assistant D.A. Sybil Murphy was called to the witness stand to testify about her role back in 2018 as a supervisor of the Pownall jury.

Murphy, now a deputy attorney general under A.G. Josh Shapiro, talked about how the prosecutor's manual in the D.A.'s office requires a prosecutor in a grand jury investigation to not only inform grand jurors of the relevant case law by reading it to them, but also by giving the grand jurors a personal copy of that relevant case law, so they could refer to it during deliberations.

"So the process was to read 'em [the law] and leave 'em" [a copy of the law]," Judge McDermott asked.

"Yes," Murphy replied.

"And the notes of testimony should reflect that?" the judge asked.

"Yes," Murphy replied. 

But in the Pownall case, the opposite was true. Regarding the notes from the grand jury proceedings, notes showed that the prosecutors did neither.

When the judge asked former ADA Murphy whether copies of the relevant case law were left behind in the grand jury room for jurors to review, she replied, "I don't know."

"I did not give them anything," she added.

The grand jury transcripts not only confirm that, but they also show that former ADA Tripp forgot to bring the exhibits to the grand jurors before they deliberated for a full 12 minutes before they indicted Pownall for murder.

"We should have stoped the deliberations," former ADA Murphy admitted.

The next witness was Tracy Tripp, the former criminal justice reformer who is no longer employed in the D.A.'s office. 

Tripp attempted to tell the judge that even though the grand jury transcripts contain no mention of this, she distinctly remembered printing out copies of the relevant case law for the grand jurors to read. And leaving those copies on the table in the grand jury room, where they were deliberating, Tripp so they could read and review them.

When it came time for cross examination, Brian McMonagle, one of the defense lawyers for Pownall, asked Tripp to read through the 50-page transcript of the grand jury minutes on the day they deliberated for 12 minutes before indicting Pownall for murder. McMonagle asked Tripp to find one mention of her reading the relevant case law to grand jurors, or giving them copies of the relevant case law.

"Take your time," McMonagle advised her.

After Tripp read through the notes, she had to admit that there wasn't any mention of her doing either duty in the record.

"It looks to be that way," she lamely confessed.

But Tripp continued to claim that she did give grand jurors copies of the law.

"My recollection is we put that on the table," she said.

During the cross-examination of Tripp, Judge McDermott interrupted to admonish Tripp.

By not giving grand jurors the legal elements that constituted murder or manslaughter, "You're not giving them the tools to say which one" applied in the Pownall case, the judge said.

"You didn't explain malice or intentional killing," the judge said in continuing to admonish Tripp.

The problem was compounded when it came time to draw up an affidavit of probable cause that would indict Pownall for murder, the D.A.'s office relied solely on the faulty grand jury presentment.

During closing statements, Fred Perri, arguing on behalf of Pownall, said that his client's rights to "due process has been violated by someone's negligence."

That someone was clearly Tripp, who had just left the witness stand.

While Tripp claimed she had sought out senior prosecutors for advice, Perri sneered to the judge, "You know who's calling the shots over there," he said, referring to D.A. Krasner. 

"The presentment must be quashed," Perri concluded. 

When ADA Vince Corrigan was giving his closing argument, he made the mistake of saying if the defendant didn't like getting indicted for murder, he could always appeal the D.A.'s decision.

That's when Judge McDermott brought up another outrageous act by the D.A.'s office during the Pownall case, that of denying Pownall the former cop a preliminary hearing, where he would have had the chance to hear the evidence against him and confront his accusers.

"You didn't give them a preliminary hearing," the judge reminded ADA Corrigan about the defense. "How could they appeal?"

"He was entitled to a preliminary hearing," the judge repeated about Pownall.

She also reminded Corrigan that the D.A.'s officer never informed the grand jurors of the law regarding justifiable use of force by a police officer.

"How could the grand jury do their job without knowing that?" she asked Corrigan.

McDermott was so disgusted with the D.A.'s office that she said if they were defense lawyers, "I would have declared them incompetent."

The presentment is quashed, the charges are dismissed, the judge announced, and the defendant is free to go. After five years, the case of the Commonwealth v. Pownall was over without a trial.

But at the close of the hearing, ADA Corrigan and ADA Lyandra Retacco were talking about rearresting Pownall, only this time, the judge warned, they'd better give him a preliminary hearing.

After the judge dismissed the charges, I asked Corrigan if it was time to give up on the Pownall case.

"Nope," he said, as he hurried with his head down toward the exits.

As they filed out of the courtroom, I asked Corrigan and Retacco about Pownall's right to a speedy trial, and whether they had any idea how bad the D.A.'s office looked in Judge McDermott's courtroom.

It was so bad that not even Chris Palmer, one of Krasner's dedicated apologists at The Philadelphia Inquirer, could fully clean up the mess in a late developing story that the Inky promptly ushered off the front page of its newly designed website.

Both Corrigan and Retacco responded by saying no comment. 

That's when Dustin Slaughter, a spokesperson for the D.A.'s office who never talks to me, suddenly erupted. He charged toward me, while loudly criticizing my work as a reporter. 

Slaughter, who had to be physically restrained and told to shut up by Corrigan and Retacco, declined, when given the opportunity, to expand upon any of his erudite criticisms of Big Trial's Krasner coverage.

Must be a sensitive guy.

Outside the courthouse, McMonagle and Perri described the Pownall case as a "travesty of justice" where the D.A.'s office under Krasner had used a corrupt grand jury process to "destroy a young man's life."

When I told the defense lawyers that the D.A.'s office was not prepared to throw in the towel on the Pownall case, Perri replied, "Either are we."


  1. This farce of a trial will continue indefinitely as long as Krasner can refile and prolong the Chinese water torture of Pownall

    What is needed is a change to court protocol that would bar the DA from ever refiling a case thrown out by the judge for professional incompetence that is based on hate and devoid of actionable facts.

    Krasner should be removed from the DA'S Office and barred from the practice of law. A new DA should be chosen from a pool of experienced candidates in the practice of law and current ADAs would have to interview for a job with the DA if so inclined. I am sure the pool of outstanding candidates would far exceed the current pool of incompetent people serving as ADAs

    1. And who would be the one to choose? It’s already been proven that Kenney is only concerned with identity politics like all other Demons. It’s sad to say but there’s no hope. In a corrupt demon city this will be the status quo until we can get a Republican in to replace all these demons.

    2. If I was Mr Pownall I would sue the City of Philadelphia and district attorney's office for ruining his life and career.

  2. We need to make sure that once a judge bars an incompetent DA from ever refiling a spite case against Pownall, then the case will be allowed to die.

  3. Did the court make a decision on the Rule 600 dismissal motion or is that now moot (for now at least) given the quashing?
    Rule 600 protects the right to a speedy trial as guaranteed by both the US and PA constitutions and the only fair remedy for violating it is to dismiss without the ability to refile. The conduct by the Philadelphia DA's office in this case, causing massive delays, would seem to violate it.

  4. Hold on a second - Ralph, when did Tripp leave the DA's office, and under what circumstances?

    1. According to the State Supreme Court website, she is a Public Defender in Delco.

  5. Krasner must be removed from office and disbarred asap.

  6. What cop in the DA office wrote up this affidavit of probable cause for this case?

    1. Lieutenant Jason Hendershot; Krasner's handpicked Commanding Officer from OISI. No Detective would author and swear out a false affidavit for Krasner and Tripp. So Hendershot swore out an affidavit he knew was false to illegally arrest Pownall.

    2. Should be arrested on federal civil rights violations ( criminal) then civil!

  7. Pownall's trial may have lapsed it's five year statute of limitations if he was not put on trial due to delays.

  8. The 19 year old "kid" who committed a homicide last August, was he the shooter who exited a SEPTA bus to execute a passenger getting off the same bus?

    SWAT terminated him after he wantonly started to shoot at them this morning.

    1. I guess that asshole Krasner will be looking into charging these SWAT officers with murder too as the critters family scrambles to hire a civil rights lawyer to claim their ghetto lottery winnings from the city.

    2. Sources say he killed a family member who was sitting in his car August 2022. Killing considered domestic.

  9. Hey Ralph, where did you get Larry's law school graduation picture?

  10. I love reading Big Trial. Ralph is the best reporter in the city right now. He’s exposing unbelievable injustices being committed by the people who are supposed to protect us. Keep fighting Ralph !

  11. Now Philadelphia Citizens absolutely deserve to know what Sweetheart Plea Agreement Philly's Fake Progressive District Attorney Krasner gave to the 21 year old Philly Thug Bivens who was literally just found guilty of killing an unborn child and critically injuring the pregnant mom while Drag Racing at Broad and Diamond Streets in North Philly in 2020 that allowed him to still have his freedom and be on Philly Streets to go to a High School of all places and shoot 4 members of Roxborough High School Football Team and ending up Murdering 1 of them who was a totally innocent 14 year old child! PLEASE Ralph find out what Sweetheart Deal Krasner gave to another Philly Thug who just like Philly's violent criminals that Krasner gives Sweetheart Plea Agreements to end up Murdering somebody in Philly because Krasner doesn't even make sure that they get put in jail after the 1st time they are locked up and charged for having absolutely no respect for other people's rights to live in a safe city!

    1. Looks like according to the docket, they took it to trial and lost on the most serious charges. RC should investigate, we all know the inquirer sure as hell won't.

  12. In order to re-arret Pownall you need something called probable cause. It does not exist. That is why Lyin Larry used the grand jury to cover his illegal actions. A sworn law enforcement officer will have to falsify another affidavit and commit another crime for an arrest to occur. Jane Roh or Vinnie Corrigan feel free to challenge that assessment.

    1. Both Jane Roh and Vinnie Corrigan will have to leave with Larry Krasner. Yes, there is no probable cause to arrest Pownall again and only a sworn law enforcement officer with a personality of Judas would do something so insidious such as falsifying another false affidavit like Lt Jason Henderson did.

  13. Where is the bar association on these basic, I can't even call them mistakes, calculations to deprive a citizen of his rights? It seems to me that if the bar association had any credibility they would be all over sanctioning these incompetent attorneys and the District Attorneys Office.


    Thomas J. Farrell
    Chief Disciplinary Counsel

    Pennsylvania Judicial Center
    601 Commonwealth Avenue, Suite 2700
    P.O. Box 62485
    Harrisburg, PA 17106-2485

    Phone: 717.783.0990
    Fax: 717.783.4963

  15. Eric Ruch needs to be released immediately pending an examination and investigation into the grand jury conducted by the same parties (criminals) at the same time as Pownall


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