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Convicted Rapist Seeks Right to Starve to Death

Illustration for article titled Convicted Rapist Seeks Right to Starve to Death

A state court has agreed to hear the case of a prisoner who's protested his rape conviction by hunger-striking for the past four years. Being force-fed is "torture," he says—and not just because prison food tastes bad.

William Coleman, a British-born, 49-year-old former college football coach, is currently serving an eight-year sentence in a Connecticut prison after being convicted of raping his ex-wife. Coleman claims he's innocent, and has spent the past four years subsisting mostly on liquid foods as part of his hunger strike. Eating solid food now causes him pain, which is why he filed suit against the state—which has tried to keep him alive by force-feeding him. In 2009, a court ruled that force feeding Coleman was permissible, but now the state's highest court has agreed to hear the guy out and decide whether he can wither away and die on the state's watch if he so desires. The ACLU is backing him, and international law seems to support his position.

Do you think Coleman's commitment to his cause lends credibility to his innocence claim? His supporters seem to believe so, pointing to his extreme weight loss (he's now half his former size) and dedication to his campaign. A website made in Coleman's defense states that he's has been offered his parole papers, but has refused to sign them because doing so would mean admitting to his crime. At his trial, Coleman's lawyers pointed out that his ex-wife hired a divorce lawyer before reporting the rape to police, and made her allegation after Coleman sought sole custody of their children. Coleman apparently passed a polygraph test about the rape, but polygraph results aren't admissible evidence in Connecticut.

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Ultimately, Coleman's conviction rested on his ex-wife's testimony, but that's enough evidence to convict; at trial, she testified that Coleman was "controlling" and made her feel like a prisoner. Several witnesses, including two cops, provided corroborating testimony, and the jury believed her case was stronger.

Rapist Briton's victory on 'right' to starve himself to death [UK Daily Mail]

Waterbury jury convicts man for rape of his wife [Waterbury Republican-American, via Truth in Justice]

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Image Tim Pearce, Los Gatos/via Flickr.

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DISCUSSION

virtuousvixen-old
VirtuousVixen

The issue at hand is not whether his actions make his assertions of innocence more believable. The issue isn't that he's a convicted rapist, and including that tidbit in the headline, and the subsequent discussion of it in the article, is quite clearly designed to elicit a certain type of conversation in the comments about how awful he is for being a rapist.

The issue is whether the state can force feed a prisoner. Full stop. I believe that it is his right to refuse food, and fail to see a compelling state interest in forcing him to eat, other than perhaps to not let him die to get out of his punishment. But if the guy is deemed sane and therefore capable of making reasoned decisions, then they shouldn't be able to force food down his throat. Also, if force feeding causes pain and discomfort, regardless of if it happens because he's starved himself to this point, then that is a violation of his eighth amendment rights.