Larsen Larsen cites track record in judge bid
Editor's note: This is the third of four profiles on candidates running for Lancaster County judge in November's election. The fourth profile, on Jayne Duncan, is scheduled to be published in Friday's edition. , BY BRETT HAMBRIGHT, Staff Writer
It took Christopher Larsen five months to realize criminal defense work wasn't his calling.
And the last 13 years, according to Lancaster County's second-ranked prosecutor, to learn what it takes to be a judge.
Larsen, a 40-year-old city resident who is married with two children, is seeking the county's lone vacant judgeship in November.
Larsen, a McCaskey High School and Franklin & Marshall College graduate, said he's always been about public service -- it was just a matter of finding the right venue.
The district attorney's office has been a great fit, Larsen said, and a perfect prep course for taking a seat on the bench.
"When it comes down to it, a judge has to decide cases that are in the gray area of the law," he said in a recent interview. "I do that every day."
As first assistant to District Attorney Craig Stedman, Larsen prosecutes the county's most serious cases. Outside of court, he assists Stedman in deciding whether police have enough evidence to bring charges in major cases.
"A good prosecutor is not just somebody looking to get convictions," he said. "There are times when the police and public disagree, but they are decisions based on evidence.
"It's not just locking people up; it's taking that objective stance."
His reputation as a hard-working, well-tempered prosecutor prompted the unanimous endorsement of the county's Fraternal Order of Police in December. The officers cited Larsen's "educational background, experience, and longevity in the DA's office."
Stedman and Clerk of Courts Joshua Parson also have endorsed Larsen for the spot, which will be vacant following Judge Louis Farina's retirement.
Larsen is one of four candidates -- the others are Merrill Spahn Jr., Jayne F. Duncan and Thomas B. Sponaugle -- vying to fill that 14th judge seat. All are Republicans, and the local GOP committee is expected to endorse one on Feb. 19.
"I believe there is a need for somebody with my perspective on the Court of Common Pleas," Larsen said. "I feel I can make an even greater positive impact on my community serving on the bench."
But it all could have been different had Larsen stayed on the path he chose following graduation from law school in 1999. He said his first step -- a position with a local criminal defense firm -- wasn't "fulfilling."
Five months later, he said, he was offered a position as assistant district attorney and "jumped" at the chance.
Most recently, Larsen won a first-degree murder conviction against Jakwan Green, who will serve a life sentence for assisting in the shooting of Diana Spencer, a mother of four children.
His office is still cramped with boxes, posters and other trial evidence from the Spencer case.
His mind, he said, will always be occupied by another killing from years back.
He won a first-degree conviction and a death sentence in 2009 against Abraham Sanchez, who shot 65-year-old Ray Diener during a botched robbery at the Diener home.
Diener was a respected, retired businessman, a "true victim," Larsen says.
"It was truly a tragic case, for him to be looking forward to his golden years with his wife and to have all that taken away," Larsen said. "That's the one I'll never forget. That case will live with me forever."
It was one of many victories over more than a decade. But Larsen admits a courtroom win can't compete with accomplishments at home.
"I speak with my kids and they know daddy helps keep us safe," he says with a smile.
It's a similar pride that Larsen's own father, a former police officer, earned while raising him.
"He is, and always will be, the person I aspire to be," Larsen said. "I always admired the way he was able to help anybody that needed a hand."
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