On July 12, 2018, Michael White plunged a knife into Sean Schellenger’s back. Sean died almost instantly. His mother, father, brother, family and friends will never see him again.
Two weeks ago, on Oct. 17, Michael White was acquitted of voluntary manslaughter in Sean’s death.
Like many Philadelphians, I watched Sean’s mother, Linda Schellenger, give an impromptu press conference outside the Criminal Justice Center after the acquittal. She unabashedly excoriated District Attorney Larry Krasner, who had dropped first- and then third-degree murder charges against White, virtually guaranteeing an acquittal. As I watched Linda Schellenger that day I thought, “Wow, there is a woman who is saying what everyone is thinking.”
When Larry Krasner ran for district attorney in 2017, anyone reading his campaign materials would have thought he was running for chief public defender or chief social worker of Philadelphia. He repeated ad nauseum that he sought to end cash bail, address police misconduct and end mass incarceration. He refused to talk about the victims of crime, or upholding the law, or keeping the city safe. Despite his manifest aversion to anything historically related to a prosecutor’s office, Philadelphians elected him.
Linda is composed, articulate and passionate. She survives. But make no mistake: grief envelops her. And DA Larry Krasner compounded the enormity of her loss by, in her words, “obstructing justice.”
And, voters, he stayed true to his campaign promises – and that should keep you up at night. The District Attorney’s Office website boasts of a reduction in years of incarceration and supervision imposed since Krasner took office. Philadelphia’s top prosecutor brags not about fighting crime – but about keeping criminals out of jail. The cradle of liberty has become the cradle of anarchy.
Krasner, with seeming impunity, focuses on the concerns of defendants and allegations of police misconduct, rather than the victims of crime – and their survivors. But his progressive transformation of criminal justice in Philadelphia may have met its match in Sean Schellenger’s mother. Krasner should not be our top prosecutor, Linda says, he should be prosecuted.
I reached out to Linda and offered to interview her for Broad + Liberty because I wanted to give her a voice, undiluted by anyone else’s narrative or agenda. With video cameras rolling, we spoke in my office for almost an hour about Sean, his life, their relationship and how her life changed on July 12, 2018.
She explained, step by step, her interactions with the District Attorney’s Office, from initial charging through verdict. Linda conveys both overwhelming, heartbreaking grief and a steely determination to let the world know that Krasner repeatedly misled her and manipulated the prosecution of Michael White so no jury could find him guilty.
The cradle of liberty has become the cradle of anarchy.
I cannot call Linda a victim or say that Krasner victimized her. She refuses to be victimized. She is composed, articulate and passionate. She survives. But make no mistake: grief envelops her. And Krasner compounded the enormity of her loss by, in her words, “obstructing justice.”
Linda grieves Sean every minute of every day – her pain over this senseless killing is palpable. But despite her heartache, she is determined to speak out for change. After watching her interview, you will too. We will be posting the video of Linda’s interview on Broad + Liberty this week in three segments. Part I will be up tomorrow.
Join me in thanking her for having the courage to speak out.
Linda A. Kerns is an attorney and one of the co-founders of Broad + Liberty. You can also read an excellent legal analysis of the charges by former prosecutor George Parry here.