Published April 11. 2004 4:00AM Updated December 18. 2009 8:56PM
Convicted of first-degree murder in 1987, Bonnie Foreshaw remains perhaps the most recognizable female inmate at the York Correctional Institution in Niantic. She was the first woman tried in Connecticut for the murder of a pregnant woman, and her sentence – 45 years without parole – was the longest ever given an inmate at York.
She has been imprisoned longer than any other woman in the Niantic jail. The state Department of Correction lists her release date as April 2017.
But Foreshaw, who is 56, has been telling friends that she will be getting out of prison in three years, in 2007, for time served and good behavior.
Corrections department spokeswoman Stacy Smith, however, reiterated on Thursday that the release date remains 2017.
Her lawyer, Mary E. Werblin of Waterbury, says she's under the same impression about the early release – that the date will be in three years. Werblin, like a freelance reporter for the Hartford Advocate who published that same 2007 release date in a recent story about Foreshaw, heard about the early release from Foreshaw. The lawyer says her client merits it.
“Bonnie said there was a 50 percent law in effect when she was sentenced, so she had to serve 22-and-a-half years, minus good behavior,” said Werblin last week. “She's had an impeccable record as an inmate. She's taken every class. She's been a mentor to other inmates. She's a grandmother. This woman's been through enough.”
In 1998, the Connecticut Appellate Court upheld the dismissal of a complaint by Foreshaw that she did not have adequate representation at her murder trial a decade earlier. Foreshaw was convicted of fatally shooting Joyce Amos, who was six months pregnant, in Hartford in 1986. Foreshaw claimed she was carrying a pistol, for which she had no permit, because she'd long been a victim of abuse. On the night of the shooting, Foreshaw said was being followed by a man with a violent criminal past who was threatening her. They had a confrontation at a gas station.
The man later testified that he pulled Amos, a stranger, in front of him as a shield when he saw Foreshaw take out her handgun. Foreshaw said she accidentally shot Amos in defending herself.
Foreshaw's supporters long have argued that, at worst, she should have been charged with manslaughter, not premeditated murder. A documentary about Foreshaw's case, “The Nature of the Beast,” was made by Yale students in 1994.
Foreshaw's attorney and friends now have another concern about her future in York prison. In August 2003, Foreshaw said a female guard at the prison sexually molested her – groping her between her legs – during what purported to be a routine search.
Werblin, the attorney, was told by Corrections Commissioner Theresa C. Lantz in October 2003 that an inquiry concluded Foreshaw was not sexually assaulted by the guard, and that the matter was closed. However, persistence by Foreshaw and reporting about the incident by Andy Thibault of the Connecticut Law Tribune, in particular, apparently persuaded the state to re-open the investigation.
Lt. Gene Lebonte, commanding officer of the state police's Eastern District Major Crime Squad, wrote Werblin on April 1 that “we are actively investigating the complaint ... with respect to Ms. Foreshaw's allegation.”
What worries Foreshaw's friends, however, is retribution for trying to get justice for herself. Werblin, though she's pushed the state on Foreshaw's behalf, said if the sexual assault complaint, for some reason, hinders Foreshaw's pending release, her client should let it go. Foreshaw says no way.
Foreshaw's friends want the best for her, but what they want most is to see her free.
This is the opinion of Steven Slosberg.