Hartford Superior Court Judge James T. Graham ended a prisoner’s hunger strike Wednesday when he gave the state Corrections Department permission to force feed the man at MacDougal Walker Correctional Institute in Suffield.
The hunger strike won’t draw “anymore attention than you’ve already received to date,” Judge Graham told the man, William B. Coleman, who was convicted in 2005 of raping his wife. Reportedly, no “rape kit” hospital examination was ever performed on Mr. Coleman’s wife at the time of the complaint, nor did the court allow into evidence results of the polygraph test that Mr. Coleman passed.
Coleman, 47, a British citizen and former Waterbury resident, is using a hunger strike to protest what he says is his wrongful conviction and eight year sentence. He was in court Wednesday because the state sued him to get permission for forced feedings.
Following an hour of closing arguments Wednesday, Judge Graham granted the state’s request for a temporary injunction and ordered the state to insert a tube in Mr. Coleman’s nose to feed him.
Mr. Coleman’s attorney, Rob Serafinowicz, said the state’s motion for a temporary injunction was premature. He said Dr. Edward Blanchette, who testified last week for the Department of Corrections, was unable to accurately estimate when Mr. Coleman’s hunger strike would cause him irreparable harm. In a court brief filed Tuesday, Mr. Serafinowicz said all Mr. Coleman has done “is alter his diet in response to his conviction, the eventual result of which has yet to be determined.”
Mr. Coleman also filed an appeal to his conviction in 2005. That case is still pending in in Rockville Superior Court, which tries all of Connecticut’s habeas cases. Mr. Coleman’s attorney for his appeal was in court on Wednesday as well, but opted not to comment.
Assistant Attorney General Lynn Wittenbrink described Mr. Coleman’s hunger strike as a “long, slow suicide.” She said a vast majority of courts have found an inmate’s right to deprive themselves of nourishment must yield to the Correction Commissioner’s right to protect their life. As an inmate, Mr. Coleman’s constitutional rights are diminished, Wittenbrink argued.
Mr. Serafinowicz said he wasn’t going to argue that statement.
“I’m only saying it’s premature at this point in time,” he said, adding that the court should dismiss the injunction without prejudice and the state should come back with an injunction when it believes his client will suffer irreparable harm. Ms. Wittenbrink said the state doesn’t want to wait, because Dr. Blanchette said that within a month Mr. Coleman will be in danger of suffering a heart attack from lack of electrolytes. Mr. Serafinowicz said the juice Mr. Coleman was drinking gave him enough electrolytes, but he was unable to back up that claim with medical evidence.
After Wednesday’s hearing Mr. Serafinowicz conceded that existing case law does not favor his client. He said if Mr. Coleman decides to voluntarily begin eating again, then the state won’t need to put a tube in his nose, however, he added, “I don’t think he’s going to give in.”
Mr. Coleman testified to that effect as well.
“I’m prepared to go as long as it would take, even if I take my life,” he said during his first court appearance in the state’s effort to end his hunger strike. “I’m not going to wait for the state of Connecticut to dole out truth and justice.”
Mr. Coleman has served half of his 8 year sentence.
According to the Waterbury Republican-American, Mr. Coleman was convicted by a jury in 2005 for sexually assaulting his wife, who he divorced in 2004 after a tumultuous nine-year marriage. The rape allegation was made by his wife after Mr. Coleman filed for sole custody of their two children. No hospital examination was ever performed for the investigation by Waterbury police, and a polygraph test showed that Mr. Coleman had answered truthfully in the negative when asked if he had raped his wife.
However, polygraph tests generally are not admissible as evidence in Connecticut.
Click here to read our previous report about the hunger strike.