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Pennsylvania convict dies 12 days after compassionate release over medical issues

A Pennsylvania man who had been serving life for second-degree murder died over the weekend, 12 days after being granted a medical transfer from prison to a facility that could better treat his condition, including quadriplegia.

Ezra Bozeman, 68, died on Saturday at the UPMC Altoona medical center, Ryan Tarkowski, communications director for the Pennsylvania Department of Corrections, confirmed on Tuesday.

He had been jailed for 49 years before an Allegheny County judge granted his request for compassionate release last month.

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Bozeman had been on life support. He had a back injury that had been misdiagnosed for several years, according to his lawyer, Dolly Prabhu, and he required extensive medical care after he became paralyzed from the chest down after surgery.

An aide to Allegheny County District Attorney Stephen Zappala, whose office had opposed the release, said they had no comment on Bozeman’s death.

Prabhu, with the Abolitionist Law Center, described Bozeman as “the sweetest, sweetest person.”

“He was always, always so optimistic,” Prabhu said Tuesday. “And he was confident that it wasn’t a matter of if he gets out, it was when he gets out.”

Bozeman had been convicted in 1975 in the shooting death of Morris Weitz, a dry-cleaning business co-owner, during an attempted robbery. He had maintained he was innocent.

Pennsylvania’s compassionate release law covers incarcerated people 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 over the past 15 years.

Prabhu said it is common for prisoners seeking compassionate release to be close to death, which she said is a consequence of the terms of Pennsylvania’s law on compassionate release. She said there are “hundreds of Ezra Bozemans” in the state’s prisons, and prisons are not equipped to care for very sick, elderly people.

“We have such harsh sentencing laws, and so we have so many elderly people right now incarcerated,” Prabhu said. “And compassionate release is one of the few avenues they have in getting out and getting the care that they need.”

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