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‘Sex for lies’ | Morning Newsletter

And, our review of a new museum.

    The Morning Newsletter

    Start your day with the Philly news you need and the stories you want all in one easy-to-read newsletter

Hello, dear readers of The Inquirer Morning Newsletter.

First: We spoke to former jailhouse informants who say Philadelphia homicide detectives gave them access to sex and drugs and, in exchange, they gave statements in murder cases — and innocent men are serving life in prison to this day as a result.

Then: Our architecture critic delves into the complexities of the Bible Society’s new Philadelphia museum.

And: Schools will be a key stage to watch our handling of the coronavirus. We spoke with experts about whether the new air purifiers in Philly schools can be effective.

— Ashley Hoffman (@_AshleyHoffman,

Former jailhouse informants are coming forward saying that Philadelphia homicide detectives provided access to sex and drugs in return for statements in murder cases — and that innocent men are serving life in prison as a result.

Our investigation starts with the story of Franklin Lee, who was facing serious charges in 1984 when, he said, detectives brought him to the Police Administration Building, known as the Roundhouse, and began to ask him about a murder. He says detectives instructed him to fabricate a statement claiming a suspect, Willie Stokes, confessed the crime to him.

In exchange, Lee says, detectives offered him lenient treatment and a way to make jail more pleasant: regular visits to the Roundhouse, where Lee could have sex in interview rooms. Lee said the women could freely bring drugs and money. Stokes was convicted and has served decades in prison. Now, those who testified against him say that they regret their role and that he’s innocent. “He shouldn’t be in there,” one told us.

Read on for more from reporter Samantha Melamed about the scheme some lawyers call “sex for lies.”

Our architecture critic Inga Saffron takes a look at the American Bible Society’s new exhibition space on Independence Mall, the Faith and Liberty Discovery Center.

Located on the ground floor of a dreary, ’70s office building at Fifth and Market, the Faith and Liberty Center is the latest special interest group to carve out a spot on the mall to tell its version of the American story. The exhibits aim to show how religious faith shaped America’s basic values and remains the bulwark of all our freedoms. But Saffron says that in claiming that faith has made us a more tolerant nation, the Bible Society’s showcase actually throws America’s — and its own — shortcomings into stark relief.

Read on for her review of the new museum.

Reopening resources

  1. Track the latest data on COVID-19 cases in the region.

  2. Don’t ask for someone’s vaccination status, do this.

  3. Here’s what experts feel safe doing — and what they don’t.

  4. How to navigate fear about getting the coronavirus, even if you’re vaccinated.

  5. Even thriving is different at this stage in the pandemic. Here’s how people are doing it.

What you need to know today

  1. Experts discuss whether the new air purifiers in Philly schools can be effective.

  2. In a letter we obtained, Mayor Jim Kenney said he declined to declare a state of emergency over Philadelphia’s gun violence crisis.

  3. How has public opinion about vaccines evolved, if at all? A new report from the Kaiser Family Foundation looks at how people have changed their minds about getting vaccinated — or not.

  4. These senior living facilities are now requiring their staff members to get COVID-19 vaccines.

  5. Philly is expanding street sweeping, and the city is set to announce that this service will be expanded to more neighborhoods. But Mayor Jim Kenney is still coming up short on his campaign promise here.

  6. Savvy Philly riders can use Lyft’s cheaper carpooling option very soon.

  7. An 18-year-old pilot made an emergency landing on Ocean City bridge.

  8. Community College of Philadelphia will pay off outstanding school bills for as many as 3,500 students using stimulus funds.

Through your eyes | #OurPhilly

What a view of the first spot I hit when I moved here. Thanks for sharing this slice of life.

Tag your Instagram posts with #OurPhilly, and we’ll pick our favorite each day to feature here and give you a shout-out.

That's interesting

💰 Strategies for tackling rising prices right now? Look no further than two seasoned business owners for advice.

🏖️ These are the best playgrounds at the Jersey Shore.

🎸 Doctors performed a surgery that allowed a truck driver to get back to playing guitar after his whole hand was crushed.

📀 The band The War on Drugs is back in a major way with a concept album and new concert dates at the Met here in Philly.


“With every day that goes by, the new legal and legislative edifice of voter suppression is being built higher,” and to honor John Lewis, it’s time we do our part to turn back the rising tide, professor Mary Frances Berry writes.

  1. To prevent building failures, we need to demand action on potential problems when we see them, engineer Bennett Levin writes.

  2. Should Philly schools change their start times? It’s Pro/Con time as we turn to William R. Hite Jr., the superintendent of the School District of Philadelphia, and a current high school junior to debate.

What we're reading

  1. Hungry wild pigs are making climate change worse, and they’re not going anywhere, per Wired.

  2. Let’s hear from Zaila Avant-garde about how she became a spelling bee winner among her many accomplishments, thanks to NPR.

Your daily dose of | Variety packing

This veritable candy-colored jewelry box of baked goodies is packed with truly delightful flavor combinations that spotlight and support the local Asian American Pacific Islander community. It’s a months-old endeavor from restaurant-world veteran Arnold Byun.