More than six months after a trial judge agreed to allow the Department of Corrections to continue to force-feed a prisoner, his lawyers decided to appeal the case.
The brief filed Wednesday on behalf of inmate, William Coleman, asks the appeals court to reverse the trial court’s decision.
Coleman, who is nearing the end of an eight year sentence, stopped eating in September 2007 and by September 2008 he stopped taking all fluids.
In January 2009 Superior Court Judge James T. Graham issued a temporary injunction that allowed prison officials to force feed him. Even though they had the court’s permission prison officials didn’t intervene and start force feeding Coleman until several months later. Graham’s decision in March made that injunction permanent.
Wednesday’s brief argues that Coleman’s First Amendment right to protest and right to refuse medical treatment outweigh any state interest. Coleman’s ACLU lawyers also argue that the weight of international law prohibits the force-feeding of a competent, informed prisoner who voluntarily refuses food.
“Hunger strikes remain an important form of political protest,” said Andrew Schneider, ACLU-CT executive director. “Over the years, this type of expressive conduct has been used by Mahatma Gandhi and Nelson Mandela to grab the world’s attention to their plight when nothing else would do so.”
Coleman is protesting what he believes is a corrupt judicial system.
“Doctors around the world have condemned forced tube feeding due to the intrusive nature of the procedure,” said David McGuire, ACLU-CT staff attorney. “The World Medical Association, of which the American Medical Association is a part, has declared that forcible feeding accompanied by threats, coercion, force or use of physical restraints is never ethically acceptable because it constitutes a form of inhuman and degrading treatment.”
Click here to read the ACLU-CT’s appeal.