Lynne Abraham

From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia
Jump to navigation Jump to search
Lynne Abraham
Lynne Abraham.jpg
Lynne Abraham
23rd District Attorney of Philadelphia
In office
May 15, 1991[1] – January 4, 2010
Preceded byRonald D. Castille
Succeeded byR. Seth Williams
Personal details
Born (1941-01-31) January 31, 1941 (age 79)
Philadelphia, Pennsylvania
Political partyDemocratic
Spouse(s)Frank Ford (deceased)

Lynne Marsha Abraham (born January 31, 1941) is an American attorney who served as the District Attorney of the City of Philadelphia from May 1991 to January 2010. She was the first woman to serve as Philadelphia's district attorney. Abraham won election to that position four times. As district attorney, she oversaw the largest such office in Pennsylvania. The office prosecutes approximately 75,000 cases every year and is the largest appellate litigator in the Commonwealth. Abraham oversaw a professional staff of 300 assistant district attorneys and 275 support staff. She is also listed as one of the United States deadliest prosecutors, and was known for seeking and obtaining the death penalty frequently.[2] She ran for Mayor of Philadelphia in the 2015 election.[3]

Early life[edit]

Lynne Abraham was born in 1941 and raised in Philadelphia[4] and educated in its public schools. The daughter of first-generation Americans, she grew up on the margins of poverty. Her grandparents were immigrants — a tailor and a butcher — from Europe. She studied at Temple University for her undergraduate degree and also received her Juris Doctor from Temple University Beasley School of Law. She was married to Frank Ford until his death in March 2009.


Abraham is a former assistant district attorney. She served as a legislative consultant for the city council of Philadelphia, where she assisted council in conducting investigations, drafted legislation, testified at public hearings, met with citizens' groups and revised portions of the Philadelphia Home Rule Charter.[citation needed] She served as the head of the Philadelphia Redevelopment Authority during the administration of Mayor Frank Rizzo. She was elected Judge of the Philadelphia Municipal Court in 1977, then was elected to the Court of Common Pleas in 1980, where she presided over criminal trials until she became district attorney in 1991.

District Attorney[edit]

Abraham was elected by her fellow Philadelphia judges to take over as District Attorney in 1991 when then-District Attorney Ronald D. Castille, who retired as Chief Justice of the Pennsylvania Supreme Court, stepped down from the post in order to run for mayor. The Board of Judges elected Abraham by a thin 39-37 margin.[5]

As an incumbent, Abraham was elected to a four-year term in 1993. She was re-elected three more times; in 1997 (defeating challengers Jack McMahon and Leon Williams), 2001 (defeating challengers Alexander Talmadge and Leon Williams) and 2005 (defeating challenger Seth Williams, who would succeed her as District Attorney five years later).

Abraham held the office of district attorney longer than anyone else in Philadelphia history. She earned the nicknames "Deadliest DA" and "Queen of Death" for the high rate at which her office sought the death penalty in past decades.[6][7] According to a newspaper article published in March, 2000:[8]

Abraham's policy of routinely demanding the death penalty whenever possible has resulted in over half of Pennsylvania's death row inmates being from this city, which is notorious for its police brutality and corruption. Over 80 percent of these prisoners are Black.

Despite her aggressive pursuit of the death penalty, none of her cases has ever resulted in an actual execution.[9]

In the 2004 presidential election, she served as one of Pennsylvania's electors, casting her ballot for John Kerry.[10] In the 2008 election, she cast her electoral ballot for Barack Obama.[11] Abraham retired in 2009, and was replaced by Seth Williams.[5]

Mayoral campaign[edit]

Abraham ran for Mayor of Philadelphia in 2015 and finished third among six candidates in the Democratic primary.[5]

Later activities[edit]

Abraham applied in 2017 to serve as Interim District Attorney following the resignation of Seth Williams, who had pled guilty in a federal corruption case.[5]


  1. ^ "At Her Swearing-In, Abraham Vows Community-Outreach Work". The Philadelphia Inquirer. May 16, 1991. Retrieved November 6, 2009.
  2. ^ Pilkington, Ed (June 30, 2016). "America's deadliest prosecutors: five lawyers, 440 death sentences". The Guardian UK. Retrieved June 30, 2016.
  3. ^ Vargas, Claudia (September 17, 2014). "Abraham to run for Mayor". The Philadelphia Inquirer. Retrieved September 17, 2014.
  4. ^ [1]
  5. ^ a b c d Brennan, Chris (2017-07-13). "Lynne Abraham applies for interim DA job in Philly". Philadelphia Inquirer. Retrieved 2018-11-09.
  6. ^ Betsey Piette, "Why Philly D.A. Abraham is called 'Queen of Death'" Archived 2015-06-15 at the Wayback Machine, in Workers' World, May 17, 2001
  7. ^ Rosenberg, Tina "The Deadliest DA" in The New York Times, July 16, 1995
  8. ^ Piette, Joe (March 23, 2000). "Philly D.A. gets reality check". Philadelphia. Retrieved May 20, 2017.
  9. ^ Bunch, Will (17 September 2014). "War, death, and the Philadelphia Mayor's Race". Philadelphia Daily News. Retrieved 30 June 2016.
  10. ^ "2004 Presidential Election". The United States Electoral College. United States National Archives. Retrieved February 28, 2009.
  11. ^ Philadelphia Daily News, Clout column, Nov. 7, 2008: "Nutter, Abraham headed for college in Dec."

External links[edit]

Legal offices
Preceded by
Ron Castille
District Attorney of Philadelphia, Pennsylvania
Succeeded by
Seth Williams