As he walked into the courtroom Thursday inmate William B. Coleman blew kisses to his friend Carol Kinsley, who drove from Newport, Rhode Island to watch as her friend fought to continue his hunger strike without interference from the Corrections Department.
Last January the Corrections Department won a temporary injunction to force feed Coleman, 48, who has been on a hunger strike since Sept. 2007. Since winning the injunction the state has force fed Coleman 12 times, at least two of those times were done by inserting a tube in his nose and administering nutritional supplements while he was restrained.
“It’s good to see him, but it’s hard to see him because he’s going back to prison and he shouldn’t be there,” Kinsley said when court had adjourned for the day. “None of us want him to die nor does he. He doesn’t want to die, but he’s willing to die.”
Kinsley and Coleman’s attorney William Murray of Edwards Angell Palmer and Dodge said Coleman is trying to point out a problem with the judicial system, not just for him but for others. They said the protest is a peaceful one, similar to those used by the late Mahatma Gandhi.
Murray along with attorney David McGuire of the ACLU plan to call expert witnesses, such as a medical ethicist, psychologist, and practicing physician, as the trial continues Friday. Coleman will also take the stand in his own defense and will provide testimony about the force feedings, which were not thoroughly videotaped, according to his attorneys.
“Those videos do not reflect the procedure itself,” Murray said. He said they show Coleman being restrained, but not the actual force feeding.
Superior Court Judge James Graham, who granted the Corrections Department permission to force feed Coleman last January, will be asked by Coleman’s new attorney’s to balance his individual rights to refuse medical treatment with the right of the state to preserve his life.
Coleman was convicted by a jury in 2005 of raping his ex-wife, who he still lived with in Waterbury at the time.
At Thursday’s trial the Correction’s Department Clinical Director Edward Blanchette testified that from January 2008 until Sept. 2008 Coleman’s condition was remarkably stable and in May 2008 he was actually 10 pounds heavier than his lowest weight.
“Up until Sept. 2008 Mr. Coleman was basically in a plateau stage,” Blanchette said.
It was on the one year anniversary of his hunger strike that Coleman began refusing all fluids. Up until Sept. 17, 2008 he had been taking some water, juice, and milk. Dr. Blanchette testified that he had also been taking a nutritional supplement or a boost.
Coleman’s attorney said he has been taking a nutritional supplement for the past two or three months. Both nasogastric force feedings took place in October.
Coleman’s sister, Nandy Allen, flew in from England to be in the state for the trial, but was not in court Thursday. The trial is expected to continue Friday and possibly Feb. 5.
Click here for more background on the force feedings, here for Judge Graham’s previous decision in the case, and here to read the one-year anniversary story on the hunger strike. Also click here to read about the slow progress his habeas case has made.