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Inmate wins medical release order hours after being rushed to hospital, put on life support

Ezra Bozeman

HARRISBURG — An ailing prison inmate serving a life sentence in Pennsylvania for killing a man during a 1975 robbery won a medical release order from a judge Monday, although the decision came hours after he was put on life support.

Ezra Bozeman, 68, won the release from an Allegheny County judge while on a ventilator in an intensive care unit battling sepsis because of complications from his quadriplegia, his lawyers said in a statement.

Bozeman’s petition for medical release from prison was supported by Gov. Josh Shapiro and the superintendent of the state prison at Laurel Highlands where he has been incarcerated. Allegheny County District Attorney Stephen Zappala had opposed Bozeman’s petition.

Zappala’s office said Monday evening that it had yet to see a court order and, as a result, could not say whether it would appeal it. Pittsburgh newspapers reported that Judge Susan Evashavik DiLucente said during a court hearing Monday that she would grant the petition.

On Sunday night, Bozeman was rushed to the hospital.

Pennsylvania’s 15-year-old compassionate release law allows a judge to grant the transfer of a seriously ill inmate who is expected to die within one year to a private medical facility. Bozeman's lawyers said they hoped his condition stabilizes so that he can be transferred to a long-term care facility.

“Ezra Bozeman has been a shining example of what it means to live as a dignified human being, even as he received poor medical care as a quadriplegic,” Sean Damon of Amistad Law Project said in a statement.

Bozeman was represented by the Abolitionist Law Center and Amistad Law Project.

Bozeman emerged paralyzed from the chest down after a February surgery to remove a large blood clot near his spinal cord. After that, his lawyers filed papers seeking compassionate release.

Bozeman was convicted of second-degree murder in 1975 for killing Morris Weitz during a robbery at a dry cleaner in Pittsburgh. Bozeman has maintained his innocence, saying that he was not involved in the robbery and was nowhere near the scene, and that a key witness against him had recanted his testimony.

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