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Is a PA sentencing law 'cruel and unusual'?

Plus, Biden's border order.

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A daily newsletter by The logo of Spotlight PA, an independent, nonpartisan newsroom producing investigative journalism for Pennsylvania.
Your Postmaster: Colin Deppen

Wednesday, June 5, 2024
Today: High court case, Biden's border order, an emergency at the emergency shelter, and an open door for displaced UArts students.
This fall, Pennsylvania's Supreme Court is set to weigh whether automatic life sentences for second-degree murder convictions in Pennsylvania violate constitutional prohibitions on cruel and unusual punishment.

PublicSource profiles the 36 year-old whose case could springboard a monumental ruling on this front and a 70 year-old whose half-century in confinement could be brought to an end as a result

Elsewhere: the AP reports Ezra Bozeman, who spent decades behind bars for a 1975 shooting he maintained he did not commit, died in Altoona Saturday, 12 days after a judge granted his bid for medical release.

Bozeman was one of Pennsylvania's longest-serving prisoners, having been sentenced to life on a second-degree murder conviction. His compassionate release push drew rare support from a sitting governor.

“There needs to be more transparency and there needs to be more communication. So I’m completely committed to that.”

Pennsylvania Game Commission Director Stephen Smith during a grilling by state House lawmakers on Monday; Smith assumed the role following his predecessor's sudden resignation amid ethics-related questions
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QUEERING THE NEWS: Join us Thursday, June 13 from 6-7 p.m. ET on Zoom for a free discussion with a panel of experts on Pennsylvania’s queer media landscape — past, present, and future. Register for the event here and submit your questions to events@spotlightpa.org.
The mums at Hershey Gardens from above, via @yatsko. Send us photos by email, use #PAGems on Instagram, or tag us @spotlightpennsylvania
An aerial shot of rows of colorful flowers surrounded by grass and trees.
Today's top news story in Pennsylvania.
BORDER ORDER: Bob Casey (D., Pa.) declined President Joe Biden's invitation to join him in announcing an executive order on Tuesday that limits asylum access at the U.S.-Mexico border in an election year, Axios reports. Casey, who has supported similar policies, was one of several Democrats in competitive U.S. Senate races to decline.
  • Biden executive order is "arguably the most restrictive border policy by a Democratic president in recent history," via CBS News.
Today's second top news story in Pennsylvania.
HOUSE RULES: A survey of voters across Pennsylvania found significant support for building more affordable housing over preserving local development control, The Inquirer (paywall) reports. State efforts to do just that have bipartisan support, buy they also have influential opponents in municipal associations.
Today's third top news story in Pennsylvania.
SCHOOL BILL: A budget-season bill to pour billions into underfunded Pennsylvania schools and slash payments from public districts to cyber charters was unveiled by House Democrats on Tuesday and passed in a party-line vote by a state House panel, The Inquirer (paywall) reports. The bill faces a steep climb in the GOP-held state Senate.
  • Pa. House passes bill to give free pads and tampons to students as GOP lawmaker warns of 'communism,' via Capital-Star.
Today's fourth top news story in Pennsylvania.
STEPPING DOWN: The president of Philly's University of the Arts has resigned days after the school's surprise closure announcement and one day after a related town hall with faculty and staff was canceled at the last minutePoint Park University in Pittsburgh is offering displaced students automatic acceptance and free housing this fall.
Today's fifth top news story in Pennsylvania.
SHELTER FIRE: A fire at an emergency shelter near downtown Pittsburgh displaced nearly 200 people on Tuesday in the midst of an ongoing homelessness crisis there. PublicSource reports at least 180 people were being moved to a nearby convention center. It's unclear for how long. The fire's cause wasn't immediately known.
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WHAT'S THE 511? Change has come to Pennsylvania's statewide travel information system, 511PA. WPSU reports the app and website have new customizable features, notification options, and more.

TURNPIKE SHOOTING: A 40-year-old shot in a suspected road rage incident on the Turnpike in Lancaster County Friday has died, WHTM reports. The suspected shooter was found dead in Berks County on Saturday.

'UNSPEAKABLE HOPE': Leon Ford's memoir about being shot and paralyzed by Pittsburgh police during a mistaken identity-based traffic stop will represent Pennsylvania at this year's National Book Festival, Axios reports.

EXTRA TIME: Older Pennsylvanians and those with disabilities have an extra six months to apply for property tax and rent rebates this year under an extension of the deadline recently announced by Gov. Shapiro.

FORGE GUIDE: Thrillists' "non-touristy guide to Valley Forge" and the vicinity includes "sexy fries," a "mountain" made of flowers, and more.
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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. Answers submitted by 5:30 p.m. on issue date will be counted.

Yesterday's answer: Comingle

Congrats to our daily winners: Eric F., Stacy S., Elaine C., Bob C., Vicki U., Dave M., Don H., Marc G., Barbara F., Jane R., Jon W., Richard A., David T., Nan S., Ted W., Dan A., Susan N.-Z., Kimberly D., Jeffrey F., Annette I., Craig E., Wendy A., Alan B., James B., Tom M., Sue L., Stanley J., and sue87521.
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