Bruce and Colin Show, Tuesday, April 13, 2004
Atty. Mary Werblin, appeal counsel for Bonnie Foreshaw
on Hartford, CT CBS affiliate WTIC News Talk 1080
Colin McEnroe: CM
Mary Werblin: MW
CM: The cost of incarceration has driven to the forefront a little bit by the case of the Newman's Own PEN Award. It's a First Amendment Award. It was given to an inmate named Barbara Parsons Lane. She was one of the contributors to this book, Couldn't Keep It To Myself, compiled by Wally Lamb while teaching at York Correctional. And a lot of stuff has happened around this book. It's fair to say that PEN gave the award partly to call attention to an injustice, the attempt by the state to obtain any royalties that might be paid to these prisoners.
One of the writers is Bonnie Foreshaw. She's connected to Barbara Parsons Lane in a lot of ways, including the fact that Bonnie Foreshaw has complained of a very vivid incident of sexual harassment by a guard at York Correctional Facility. Bonnie Foreshaw is an amazing story herself, even what she is doing in prison. In 1986 she was carrying a gun, apparently because she had recently been divorced from her third husband who was stalking and threatening her. She accidentally shot and killed a pregnant woman while she was attempting to protect herself from a man who was physically assaulting her at a gas station. She didn't know either one of these people. We've got a lawyer here, why should I be talking about this. Joining us right now is Mary Werblin, who is a Waterbury attorney and lawyer for Bonnie Foreshaw. Hi!
MW: Hi, how are you?
CM: Why should I try to explain this?
MW: Please continue. So far, so good.
CM: So in 1986 she's carrying a gun because there's this domestic violence situation, a stalking, she gets assaulted by someone at a gas station and did the man himself later testify that he pulled the pregnant woman in front of him as a shield?
CM: In fact, she was convicted of pre-meditated murder.
MW: Yes. And the trial was a travesty. It was a four-day trial. We thought there was ineffective assistance of counsel, and on those grounds we appealed it. Unfortunately, we lost. We had the same judge, and he upheld the initial conviction [and sentence] 45 years. This was the longest sentence for any female in the history of Connecticut.
CM: So, here she is, in prison for pre-meditated murder for 45 years in the killing of a woman she didn't know who got in between her and the assailant she had never met before. I don't know how this could be pre-meditated murder.
MW: I don't either. I'll never know. I'll never understand it.
CM: She winds up being one of the people who writes in Wally's book, but the interesting thing is now she has come forward about a guard who had been verbally dissing on her in the past, actually did sort of touch her genitals in a pretty extensive way, according to the allegation.
MW: Yes, it was very extensive. It's been written about lately. It's kind of interesting it's been written about coincidentally with this PEN Award. And another interesting factor, the woman receiving the PEN Award is one of the witnesses to this assault.
CM: I heard that this morning. And I got a little chill.
MW: This is very true. She gave a statement, which I have in my file to that effect, that this happened. The DOC is denying anything bad happened or anything inappropriate happened whatsoever.
CM: You wrote a letter to the DOC. The DOC, by the way, is the Department of Correction. And within two days they told you basically that this never happened.
MW: Yeah, they told me that. They told me there had been a state police investigation, which I couldn't get my hands on. I said I'd like a copy of that investigation, I went to the FOI Commission and I never received it. I don't think [an investigation] was ever done, initially, which is the process. The process is they do an in-house investigation and that is followed by the state police if necessary. I certainly was calling for an investigation, I wanted an independent investigation. I don't understand why the state is investigating the state. That makes no sense to me. I think some kind of commission should be appointed that is totally independent of the state that would look into this kind of matter.
CM: As far back as 2000, Amnesty International, the international human rights organization, began asking for investigations of sexual harassment of prisoners there at that time. This isn't necessarily a new phenomenon. It is true that the state police recently re-opened their investigation.
MW: Absolutely correct. When that happened, I wrote again to Commissioner Lantz saying that there was an ongoing investigation and I was under the impression that under the administrative directive of the Department of Correction that the alleged perpetrator should be suspended pending the outcome of the investigation. And I got another letter back from Commissioner Lantz, saying, no there is no investigation going on. The C.O. [correction officer] did not do anything incorrect and there is no state police investigation. The case is closed. This blew my mind. This can't be happening. So I called the state police. They wrote me a letter saying we are absolutely doing a full-fledged investigation. And I got that letter and sent her a copy and I've yet to hear from her at all.
CM: And is the FBI investigating this, too?
MW: Yes. And that's new. That just happened on Friday. I got a call from Bonnie saying that two FBI agents have come to the prison and have been asking her questions for a good length of time about the incident itself, which happened on Aug. 24, 2003. so they're looking into it as well. Whoever initiated that, I'm not sure.
CM: Well, Mary Werblin, attorney for Bonnie Foreshaw, we thank you for your time. We will continue to follow this story, as well as the stories of the eight or nine other women who contributed to that book.
MW: OK, I'm very grateful for your time. And I'm glad to discuss this case, because I think it's the tip of some iceberg. I really do. I think there's a lot more than is being uncovered.
CM: Well, thanks for being with us …For Bonnie Foreshaw and some other stuff involving the prisons, Steve Slosberg from the New London Day really acknowledged a couple days ago in a column Andy Thibault, crusading journalist Andy Thibault. I hate even saying this because it just encourages Andy to send me more e-mail in big capital letters and stuff. Andy really is like a throwback to the crusading journalists of old, to the I.F. Stones and the muckrakers and the people who really are engaging their passion, he is probably in a lot of ways what the rest of us have forgotten to be. We're all too corporate now. I just have to give Andy some credit. He really goes after these stories with his guts and passion. He's always sending me e-mails about horrific things that are happening and I almost am scared to open them, J'Accuse Andy things. Often it's a pretty significant story that other people aren't telling. Even though he's a wacko, he's a very important part of the Connecticut journalism constellation, assuming there is such a thing.