William Coleman, the inmate who has been on a hunger strike for nearly 17 months, was finally able to take the stand Tuesday afternoon to defend his protest.
The Correction Department is seeking to obtain a court order that will allow it to continue the force feedings as long as Coleman’s hunger strike continues.
Coleman’s attorney’s have said the Correction Department has used a temporary injunction it received last January to force feed him a dozen times—10 times with an IV solution and two times by placing a plastic tube up his nose and down to his stomach.
Shortly after his testimony began during the fourth day of the trial Coleman’s attorney’s played the two Correction Department videotapes showing the IV procedure and how he was restrained prior to the first nasogastric tube feeding.
The nasogastric tube procedure was not videotaped, however, the video did capture the moments before and after the Oct. 23 feeding.
In the video Coleman was wheeled into the infirmary in a wheelchair and asked Correction officials standing in the room what was going on.
“Someone talk to me other than Dr. Blanchette,” Coleman said complaining he had been pulled out of a legal visit for the procedure and wouldn’t talk to Dr. Edward Blanchette, director of clinical operations for the Corrections Department, who had testified during the January 2007 hearings when the state was first granted the court order to force feed him.
Coleman, who was dressed in a gray sweat suit, requested phone calls to his attorney and the British Consulate, which he said he had been granted prior to his IV feedings. Coleman is from Liverpool, England.
One of the Correctional Officers present told him he wouldn’t be able to make the phone calls at that moment. Blanchette, dressed in a suit and tie in the video, said the state has a court order directing the state to maintain Coleman’s life and “it’s reached the point now where we must begin some nutritional support.”
Blanchette asked the nursing staff for a cup of boost, a nutritional supplement, he wanted Coleman to drink voluntarily. Coleman refused to answer Blanchette when he asked him to drink the boost.
“You’re all going to jail,” Coleman said. “This is ethically wrong.”
Coleman pled his case to the handful of Correction officers and nurses present for the force-feeding telling them if they have an “ethical compass” they won’t participate in a procedure that the American Medical Association has repeatedly opposed.
“We’re already well aware of your views,” Blanchette said before asking if he will allow the tube to pass without resistance. Coleman refused to answer, but remained physically still as Correction officers lowered the gurney and secured the restraints.
As Coleman was raised back up to a sitting position he made one last plea to the officials in the room that day. “No one in this room should be participating in this criminal act,” Coleman said.
Blanchette asked again if he would comply and drink the boost. Coleman didn’t answer.
“None of us want to do this,” Blanchette said.
Coleman said he didn’t think the procedure was medically necessary.
Blanchette asked the Correction officer filming the video to turn the camera off so he could start the medical procedure. Coleman asked the cameras be left on.
The cameras were turned back on after approximately 24-minutes. As soon as the cameras were back on Coleman said the whole room has been cleaned up before they started filming again.
Blanchette said his first attempt with a 12 gauge tube failed when it curved in the back of Coleman’s nasal phalanx. He said he was able to pass the 16 gauge tube and feed him 120cc’s of boost.
Blanchette said the procedure was tolerated and Coleman interrupted to say it was “terribly painful.”
As he was released from the restraints, Coleman against asked if he could make those phone calls.
Court was adjourned shortly after the two videos were played Tuesday.
“We want to establish that clearly Mr. Coleman didn’t consent to either of the two procedures,” William Murray, Coleman’s attorney, said outside the courthouse.
He said he thinks it’s curious that the IV procedure from inserting the IV port to attaching the IV bag was videotaped, but when it came to the nasogastric procedure the camera was shut off. “It’s not a privacy issue because he consented to the camera,” Murray said.
Coleman will take the stand again tomorrow at 10 a.m. and it’s likely closing arguments will be made before the end of the day.