Daystarter: Go inside the Jonchuck jury room; so-called ‘sanctuary cities’ bill heads to governor; how to celebrate Saturday’s Star Wars holiday

Catching you up on overnight happenings, and what to know today.
Check tampabay.com for the latest breaking news and developments.
Check tampabay.com for the latest breaking news and developments.
Published May 3
Updated May 3

Catching you up on overnight happenings, and what to know today.

• There will be a 20 percent chance of showers and thunderstorms today, according to the National Weather Service. That will continue through Saturday and get a bit worse on Sunday. Temperatures will be in the low to mid 70s today and highs will be in the mid 80s. But wet weather won’t tamp down temps this weekend: expect highs in the 80s to low 90s.

• Here are the top things to do today in Tampa Bay.

• Wallet a little light? Here’s 5 things to do under $5 this week, including Free Comic Book Day on Saturday when local comic book shops will have more than 50 titles on hand to give out and encourage people to visit their local indie shop.

• Three jurors in the John Jonchuck murder trial describe how they reached their verdict in a case that captivated Tampa Bay, and how they’ve moved on in the days after it ended.

• Last year 5.8 million Florida voters decided that felons should have their rights to vote restored. But the Florida Legislature has complicated that process quite a bit. Florida lawmakers say they’ve settled on a way to implement Amendment 4 that requires felons to pay all court fees, fines and restitution before voting, reports Lawrence Mower. It would allow judges to waive those costs or convert them into community service hours. But the bill could prevent tens of thousands of felons — or more — from voting while creating an unequal system across the state for restoring voting rights.

After a week of legislative back-and-forth and the stress of rapidly diminishing time weighing on both chambers, the bill to ban so-called “sanctuary cities” is headed to the governor’s desk, reports Samantha J. Gross. The controversial bill’s passage comes after months and months of heightened emotional discourse, protests and deals made among stakeholders wishing to appease the Republican base. But critics say the bill will turn every government agency into federal immigration officers.

The Florida Senate voted 40-0 Wednesday to expand the successful Miami-Dade needle exchange pilot program, reports Elizabeth Koh and Joey Flechas. Under SB 366, drug users will be allowed to exchange used needles for clean ones statewide if their county governments agree groups can establish their own needle exchanges. The bill’s passage was an emotional moment for advocates and families that some frankly admitted they never expected.

• The man who led Florida Highway Patrol troopers on a three-county chase, firing shots at pursuing troopers while attempting to run down two Citrus County deputies, is being held without bail following his arrest on Tuesday. Travis Lovett, 22, was booked into the Sumter County Jail on Thursday night following his release from Tampa General Hospital.

• The Florida Legislature is almost done. The Times/Herald Tallahassee Bureau has the latest coverage from the state capital at the The Buzz.

Three Tampa police officers have been fired for cutting corners with detentions, searches and drug disposal. Seven others have been disciplined. Said Police Chief Brian Dugan: “If we want to have credibility as a department, and I want credibility as chief of police, I have to take these things seriously.”

• A judge ruled Thursday that a 3-year-old boy caught in a legal tug of war over how he is to be treated for leukemia will be turned over to his grandparents. Noah McAdams, 3, was taken into custody by the state Monday after his parents refused additional chemotherapy treatment for his acute lymphoblastic leukemia, a cancer of the blood and bone marrow. The parents, Joshua McAdams and Taylor Bland-Ball of Tampa, had taken the boy to Kentucky in their effort to keep him out of the hospital and treat him with natural remedies.

• Legal woes cloud the future of one of the go-kart tracks in the Tampa Bay area is in danger of going out of business, according to lawsuits filed in Pinellas Circuit Court. The owners of Pro-Karting Experience at 4770 34th St. N are being sued by their landlord for owing almost $1 million in back rent, according to the lawsuit. The go-kart track operator also owes property taxes, has failed to maintain the property and is in danger of shutting down, according to a lawsuit filed April 23.

• The Rev. Andy Oliver of Allendale United Methodist Church has made no secret of the fact that he is willing to perform same-sex marriages. And now he will appear before a Florida bishop to answer to a complaint for violating church rules.

• How has Clearwater Beach evolved over the past century? Florida Wonders investigates. Photos old and new tell us how the landscape of the beloved beach has changed.

• The Lightning’s dissatisfaction runs from top to bottom. Team owner Jeff Vinik sent an email to season-ticket holders expressing his disappointment in Tampa Bay’s first round sweep. “We accept full ownership and responsibility for our result in the postseason,” his letter reads. “Nobody is more disappointed than our players and the hockey operations department, inclusive of Julien BriseBois, Jon Cooper, our coaches, and staff. Me, too.”

• Saturday brings the most exciting 2 minutes in sports, the Kentucky Derby. There’s lots of parties for that around the, but for a sense of the real deal, the horse track at Tampa Bay Downs has a 12-race card before the Derby. Then you can sip a mint julep as you watch a simulcast of the 145th Run for the Roses. Speaking of mint juleps, we have a fool-proof mint julep recipe here and recipes for the food and drinks to serve at your own Kentucky Derby watch party.

• Saturday is also the unofficial Star Wars holiday. It started as an inside joke among Star Wars fans who greeted each other with “May the fourth be with you.” It has turned into a full-fledged geek holiday and here are some of the parties.

• Speaking of Star Wars, we got to go behind the construction walls this week at Disney’s Hollywood Studios and see the Star Wars land under construction there. Here’s what we found. It’s opening Aug. 29.

• Peter Mayhew, the towering actor who donned a huge, furry costume to give life to the rugged-and-beloved character of Chewbacca in the original “Star Wars” trilogy and two other films, has died, his family said Thursday. Mayhew died at his home in north Texas on Tuesday, according to a family statement. He was 74. No cause was given.

• Life of the Party podcast: How to throw cutthroat competition theme parties with tribal councils. Avid party planner Scott Pollenz joins the podcast to describe what it takes to throw a party with a tribal council, a battle of brains and brawn and a signature cocktail.

• It costs money to produce quality journalism. Please support the Tampa Bay Times by buying a digital subscription to Florida’s best newspaper and its redesigned website tampabay.com.

• Read the Tampa Bay Times online Sports page with the latest news about the Lightning, Bucs, Rays, Bulls, Gators, Noles and high school sports. Times sportswriter Rick Stroud has the latest reaction and analysis from the whole team via our Sports Day Tampa Bay podcast.

• Three minutes after he was voted the American League Rookie of the Month for April, Rays’ second baseman Brandon Lowe took a swing toward May honors, lacing a two-run homer with two outs in the ninth that led the Rays to a 3-1 win. Tampa Bay now heads to Baltimore as the first AL team to reach 20 wins.

• The Rays have started this season strong, but can they keep it up? Rays beat writer Marc Topkin will be there every step of the way. Follow him at @TBTimes_Rays.

• Ronald Jones, Jr., lost yards whenever he touched the football for the Bucs last season. Then he lost his confidence. Jones’ rookie year was a disaster. He finished with 44 yards on 23 carries (1.9 yard average) and one touchdown. He caught seven passes for 33 yards. Jones needs his swag back.

Former NFL kicker Chris Boniol takes a stab at a recurring Bucs nightmare. He is the new Bucs “specialists” coach. He kicked in the NFL for six seasons for three different teams before he retired in 1999, or was retired, as it were. Ah, the life of a kicker. Boniol has been there, done that, made that, missed that.

• A READING RIDDLE: Students are struggling to read everywhere, but why does Hillsborough County have so many of them? Read the Tampa Bay Times special report by education reporter Marlene Sokol on why Hillsborough school children are struggling to read. For more coverage click below:

• Hillsborough students say their love for reading waned over time. ‘I’d rather go outside.’

• Listen to a special edition of the Gradebook podcast: When reading becomes a requirement, can kids love doing it?

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