Most of the third day of inmate William Coleman’s trial was consumed by the testimony of a state psychiatrist who is worried that Coleman’s attempt to continue his hunger strike may prompt copycat behavior.
Dr. Suzanne Ducate, director of psychological services for the Correction Department, said Thursday that another inmate initiated a hunger strike in October about a year after Coleman began his own.
Even though that inmate’s hunger strike lasted only several days, William Murray, Coleman’s attorney pointed out that the inmate never referenced Coleman by name.
During cross-examination Murray questioned Ducate about her relationship with Coleman and asked whether she considered it therapeutic.
Ducate said the biggest obstacle to their relationship is the courtroom.
When asked if she thought he was suicidal, Ducate said he has repeatedly told her he doesn’t want to die, but is willing to die.
“I don’t disbelieve his stated reasons, I just don’t understand them. It doesn’t make sense to me,” Ducate said.
Coleman, 48, has said he is using the hunger strike to protest what he says is his wrongful conviction and a broken judicial system. The state won a temporary injunction last January to force feed him. Since September 2008 Coleman has been force fed about a dozen times, according to Coleman’s attorneys from the American Civil Liberties Union.
“I’m prepared to go as long as it would take, even if I take my life,” Coleman said of his hunger strike during his first court appearance last January. “I’m not going to wait for the state of Connecticut to dole out truth and justice.”
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 Coleman filed for sole custody of their two children. He has served more than half of his 8 year sentence.
Coleman is expected to take the stand next Tuesday, Feb. 10.
In anticipation of his testimony the Hartford Courant intervened in the case Thursday and the newspaper’s attorney was successful in getting Superior Court Judge James T. Graham to modify a previous order to seal two videotapes of Coleman’s force feeding procedure.
Attorney Paul Guggina, of Hinckley, Allen and Snyder, was able to get Graham to change his mind about the scope of the viewing of the videotapes.
Graham, who two days earlier sealed the videos, said he would modify the order and allow placement of the monitors away from the public. But he would allow them to be played during the court proceedings. He said he will not allow the video to be broadcast by the television cameras covering the proceedings, but several members of the print media will be offered a limited view.