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Pennsylvania convict dies 12 days after compassionate release over medical woes

A Pennsylvania man serving a life sentence for second-degree murder died over the weekend, 12 days after he was approved for transfer to a facility that could better treat his condition, which includes quadriplegia.

Ryan Tarkowski, public information director for the Pennsylvania Department of Corrections, confirmed Tuesday that Ezra Boseman, 68, died Saturday at Penn State Altoona Medical Center.

He was incarcerated for 49 years until an Allegheny County judge granted his request for compassionate release last month.

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Boseman was put on life support and his lawyer, Dolly Prabhu, said he had been misdiagnosed for years for a back injury, but after surgery he was left paralyzed from the chest down and required intensive medical care.

An aide to Allegheny County District Attorney Steven Zappala, who had opposed the release, said he could not comment on Boseman’s death.

Prabhu, of the Abolition Law Center, described Boseman as a “very kind person.”

This photo provided by the Pennsylvania Department of Corrections shows Ezra Boseman in Laurel Highlands State Correctional Institution on Wednesday, May 15, 2024. Boseman, who was serving a life sentence for a 1975 murder, died Saturday, June 1, 2024, less than two weeks after a judge ordered his release to a medical facility. (Pennsylvania Department of Corrections via The Associated Press)

“He was always, always very optimistic,” Prabhu said Tuesday, “and was convinced that it was not a question of if he would be released, but when.”

Boseman was convicted of shooting and killing his dry-cleaning business partner, Morris Weitz, during an attempted robbery in 1975. He maintained his innocence.

Pennsylvania’s compassionate release law is for inmates who are seriously ill and expected to die within a year. The Pittsburgh Post-Gazette reported that about 50 people have been granted compassionate release in the past 15 years.

Prabhu said it’s common for inmates seeking compassionate release to be near death, due to provisions in Pennsylvania’s compassionate release law. There are “hundreds of Ezra Bozemans” in the state’s prisons, and prisons are not equipped to care for seriously ill elderly people, she said.

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“Our penal laws are very strict and many elderly people are currently incarcerated in prison,” Prabhu said, “and compassionate release is one of the few avenues for them to get out and get the care they need.”