A Connecticut judge is scheduled to hear closing arguments Tuesday in the case of an inmate who has been on a hunger strike for more than two years.
Superior Court Judge James Graham was asked 11 months ago by the American Civil Liberties Union of Connecticut to vacate his previous decision that allowed the Corrections Department to force feed inmate William B. Coleman.
Coleman has since been force fed a dozen times by the state since September 2008. The Corrections Department says it has a responsibility to preserve an inmate’s life.
Coleman, a British subject, claims the force feedings violate his free speech and privacy rights. He has been on a hunger strike for more than two years to protest his conviction for a 2002 marital rape and what he calls a “broken judicial system that ruins many people’s lives.”
Since Graham last heard arguments in the case this February a group of law professors from Yale Law School, Northeastern University School of Law and Western New England College School of Law have submitted a friend-of-the-court brief in support of Coleman.
In this brief they argue Connecticut should take international law on the matter of force feeding under consideration.
“In sum, the federal constitutional issue before this Court raises a ‘common legal problem’ that has been dealt with by courts, experts, and governments around the world, with the weight of authority condemning force feeding of a competent prisoner. This Court should follow the Supreme Court’s lead and consider these authoritative sources as it weighs the federal constitutional defenses posed by Mr. Coleman,” the brief states.
In fact, Coleman’s case is a case of “first impression” meaning it is the first time a Connecticut court has been asked to decide the question about whether or not a hunger strike is protected by the constitution.
Closing arguments begin at 10 a.m. Tuesday in Hartford Family Court, 90 Washington Street.