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‘Election denial’ fuels a bid for Toomey’s seat

Plus, Pa. police killing sparks constitutional test.


A daily newsletter by Spotlight PA
Your Postmaster: Colin Deppen
July 27, 2021
Use-of-force, election denial, Gerow crash, foreclosure ban, aid revoked, clergy abuse, and the Great Pittsburgh Sheetz Hoax. It's Tuesday, welcome back.
JOIN US: On Wednesday, we're hosting a virtual Q&A about the millions of mostly hidden taxpayer dollars lawmakers spend on personal accommodations (register here); and next Thursday — we've changed the date — we're hosting a virtual panel about rental assistance in Pennsylvania as a federal COVID-19 eviction ban ends (register here).
Philadelphia's district attorney is challenging the constitutionality of Pennsylvania’s use-of-force law ahead of a former police officer's landmark murder trial, and the outcome could raise the bar for law enforcement statewide.

Larry Krasner's office is set to try ex-officer Ryan Pownall for fatally shooting 30-year-old David Jones, who was unarmed at the time of his death. But first, it wants the state Supreme Court to take a closer look at a section of Pennsylvania law that allows officers to use deadly force to prevent someone from escaping arrest, Spotlight PA reports.

The crux of Krasner's appeal is a 36-year-old U.S. Supreme Court ruling that established a higher burden for justifiable police shootings. The progressive DA says Pennsylvania jurors need to know about the case before deliberating in police shooting trials. 

THE CONTEXT: Under current Pennsylvania law, officers are justified in using deadly force if a person is attempting to escape and has "committed or attempted to commit a forcible felony" or possesses a deadly weapon.

In a brief filed this month, Krasner’s office argued that those sections don't pass constitutional muster as established by SCOTUS.

The justices in Tennesee v. Garner said police can only use such force to prevent an escape while having "probable cause to believe that the suspect poses a significant threat of death or serious physical injury to the officer or others."

If successful, the appeal would change jury instructions, not the state law itself. Only legislators in Harrisburg can do that, but their recent attempts amid a reckoning on police killings both here and nationwide have encountered entrenched opposition from police groups as well as Republican legislators.
Huge issues are being debated in Harrisburg, from voting changes to redistricting, that could have ramifications on our state for years to come. Now more than ever, we need unflinching investigative journalism in Pennsylvania.

And Spotlight PA is answering the call in a bold new way.

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"I'm not thinking of that. I don't mean to be cavalier about it. Our strategy here in Pennsylvania has been the vaccine, and that has worked." 

—Gov. Tom Wolf said he has no plans for new COVID-19 mitigation measures in Pennsylvania as parts of the U.S. begin to reimpose their own

VACCINE UPDATE: Pfizer and Moderna will expand ongoing trials of their coronavirus vaccines in children under 12 to gather more safety data amid worries the shots may trigger rare heart side effects in youth. For vaccine providers, use the federal government's online tool, call 1-800-232-0233, or text your ZIP code to 438829 (GETVAX).
>> THE HIDDEN TAB: Join us Wednesday, July 28 at 5 p.m. ET via Zoom for a free Q&A about Pennsylvania lawmakers spending millions of taxpayer dollars on personal accommodations, and how these expenses are obscured from the public. Register here and submit your questions to events@spotlightpa.org.

>> HOUSING PENNSYLVANIA: Join us Thursday, Aug. 5 — we've changed the date — at 5 p.m. ET via Zoom for a free panel on everything we know about rental assistance as the federal eviction ban lifts. Register for the event here and submit your questions to events@spotlightpa.org

Thanks, James N., for this shot of Moshannon State Forest in Clearfield County. Another great hiking spot to add to our list! Send us your hidden gems, use the hashtag #PAGems on Instagram, or tag us @spotlightpennsylvania.
ELECTION DENIAL: Fox News fixture Kathy Barnette is running for one of Pennsylvania's U.S. Senate seats and benefitting from the profile boost that came with a months-long hunt to prove her 2020 loss was tainted by fraud. The Inquirer says that quest has "rippled across the election denial movement" and made Barnette a GOP contender.

CRASH REPORT: A lawyer for GOP gubernatorial candidate Charlie Gerow says "preliminary information" suggests his client did not strike a motorcyclist killed on the Turnpike last week, the AP reports. The story does not explain the source of the information. A witness previously told Spotlight PA he saw Gerow’s car pass by with a motorcycle wedged into the grill.

UNBANNED: A pandemic-related foreclosure moratorium on federally backed mortgages is set to end on July 31 after 16 months, and experts say while unlikely to spark a national foreclosure crisis of the scale seen a decade ago, intervention is needed to help families in states like Pennsylvania get back on track with payments quickly

LOST MONEY: Pittsburgh businesses are among the thousands that will not receive federal COVID-19 aid as promised after federal courts halted an effort to steer the money to establishments owned by women, veterans, and people of color. Without it, WESA reports one Pittsburgh restaurant owner doesn't know when he'll be able to reopen.

ABUSE LAW: Senate Majority Leader Kim Ward (R., Westmoreland) has not ruled out legislation that would give victims of child sexual abuse a window to sue their abusers and the institutions that covered up the crimes. But the Capital-Star reports a recent court decision seemingly affirms Ward's misgivings about legislators getting involved.
MUSIC BIZ: Pittsburgh musicians can submit albums to be streamed through Carnegie Library's own service. It pays $200 for albums at least ten minutes long, while Spotify offers artists $0.003 and $0.0084 per stream, City Paper reports. Submissions are open through Aug. 6

AIR HOST: An Altoona Airbnb host is Pennsylvania's "most hospitable," offering guests robes, toiletries, and local farm eggs, and earning a 100% five-star rating on more than 260 reviews, per WTAJ. Seven Pennsylvania hosts hit the five-star benchmark, but Sheri Caw had the most reviews overall.

FREE SPEECH: Billy Penn's latest "Headlines of Yore" feature goes back to 1917 when "a Philly police officer who’d infiltrated a Socialist Party meeting set off a string of events that would bring about a landmark civil liberties decision" and make Philly ground zero in the battle to define free speech.

FLYING FEES: Falconry isn't easy, and apparently neither is getting a falconry permit in Pennsylvania. Somerset's Daily American reports there are exams, safety courses, housing requirements, references needed, and more. “It’s a lifestyle for these folks,” one master falconer told the paper.

NO SHEETZ: A Sheetz-coming-soon sign in the Pittsburgh neighborhood of Oakland was likely all a ruse. TribLIVE reports the company has no plans to move into the area and no idea who made and posted the sign. The outrage from students at the nearby University of Pittsburgh was righteous and swift.
Unscramble and send your answer to scrambler@spotlightpa.org. We'll shout out winners here, and one each week will get some Spotlight PA swag.

Yesterday's answer: Generosity

Congrats to our daily winners: David I., Michelle T., Craig W., Wendy A., Neal W., Irene R., Jill M., Chris R., Susan D., Becky C., Joan S., Maureen G., Eddy Z., Jessica K., John S., Myles M., Susan N., Don H., Barbara M., John P., Paul H., Heidi B., Judith D., Elaine C., Karen W., Kevin H., Suzanne S., David W., Catherine J., Bob R., George S., Brandie K., Dianne K., Alan V., Mary Ellen T., Christine M., Bruce B., Patricia R., Dennis M., Alice B., Craig E., Carol D., Diane P., James B., Joel S., Mark C., Elizabeth W., Mary Kay M., Daniel M., Mike B., Barbara A., and Kate P.
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