Photo courtesy of the Department of Corrections

The ACLU went to court Tuesday and filed this motion
to prevent the state from force feeding a prisoner who has waged a hunger strike for almost 10-months to protest his conviction.

A court ruling in January gave the state permission to start force feeding William B. Coleman, an inmate who is serving an 8 year sentence for a 2005 rape conviction. Coleman, a British citizen and former Waterbury resident, maintains his innocence and is using the hunger strike to draw attention to what he believes is a wrongful conviction.

The ACLU, according to this press release, wants the court to vacate its decision because force feeding Mr. Coleman would violate his free speech and privacy rights. “Hunger strikes remain an important form of political protest,” Andrew Schneider, ACLU-CT Executive Director, said in the press release.

“A person has a constitutional right to determine what happens to his or her body,” David McGuire, ACLU-CT’s staff attorney, said in the same press release. “Inserting a feeding tube against Mr. Coleman’s will is a violation of his right to bodily integrity and his right to deny medical treatment.”

Coleman told the court during one of his two court appearances in January that “I’m prepared to go as long as it would take, even if I take my life,” he said. “I’m not going to wait for the state of Connecticut to dole out truth and justice.”

Three months into his hunger strike the Department of Corrections filed a lawsuit against Mr. Coleman in an effort to preserve his life.

In January Coleman’s attorney, Rob Serafinowicz, said the state’s motion for a temporary injunction was premature. He said Dr. Edward Blanchette, who testified for the Department of Corrections, was unable to accurately estimate when Mr. Coleman’s hunger strike would cause him irreparable harm.

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.” Following his last court appearance with Mr. Coleman in January, 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.”

Since January, Mr. Coleman has lost about 10 more pounds for a total of 100 pounds. When he entered the Correction system, Mr. Coleman weighed around 250 pounds. Mr. Coleman has continued to consume water, milk, and some juice, but has refused solid food since September 2007.

It’s likely Superior Court Judge James Graham will hear the motion on the order to vacate the temporary injunction he granted the state in January sometime later this month.

Click here and here to read our previous coverage of this case.  Note that Mr. Coleman’s family in England also has commented in some of the comment threads.