Discovery of long-ago memo
gives killer a shot at clemency
By Alex Wood
Tuesday, June 18, 2013
As a result of the disclosure of an internal memorandum written 24 years ago in the state public defender’s office, a Bloomfield woman who was convicted of murder in the fatal shooting of a pregnant woman in Hartford in 1986 will get a hearing on her clemency application.
A three-member pardon panel of the state Board of Pardons and Paroles reversed an earlier decision Monday and voted unanimously to grant a clemency hearing to Bonnie Jean Foreshaw, who shot and killed Joyce Amos in a store parking lot near the Jamaican Progressive League on Albany Avenue in Hartford.
In arguing for reversing the earlier decision, lawyer Erika Tindill, who chairs the Board of Pardons and Paroles, said the package of material originally submitted to the pardon panel didn’t include a 1989 memo arguing that Foreshaw had received ineffective representation from her public defender.
The memo was from Jon C. Blue, then a lawyer in the appellate unit of the state public defender’s office, to Joette Katz, then the chief public defender.
Shortly after the memo was written, both Blue and Katz were appointed to be Superior Court judges. Katz went on to serve on the state Supreme Court and is now commissioner of the state Department of Children and Families, while Blue has remained a Superior Court judge.
Andy Thibault, a blogger and contributing editor to the Litchfield County Times, obtained the memo and discussed it in a series of columns advocating re-examination of Foreshaw’s case.
Foreshaw admitted in testimony during her 1987 trial in Hartford Superior Court that she fired the shot that killed Amos. The issue in her case has always been whether the shooting constituted murder, a lesser crime such as manslaughter, or even a legally justified use of force in self-defense.
No one has suggested that the pregnant Amos was a threat to Foreshaw. The theory of Foreshaw’s defense has always been that she felt threatened by a man named Hector Freeman, who was with Amos — and that Amos was hit by a shot Foreshaw intended to fire in the air to scare Freeman away.
The position taken by Foreshaw and her public defender, Dennis O’Toole, at her trial was that she committed the shooting due to “extreme emotional disturbance” stemming from childhood abuse and two abusive marriages. Under Connecticut law, a jury finding that an intentional killing stemmed from extreme emotional disturbance converts the crime from murder to first-degree manslaughter.
The jury at Foreshaw’s trial declined to make such a finding. But Blue argued in the memo, provided to the Journal Inquirer by Thibault, that O’Toole hadn’t adequately presented the “mental state defense.”
Blue said, for example, that Foreshaw’s husband had beaten her on the head with a baseball bat two years before and she had spent two weeks in the hospital — but no hospital records were produced at her trial.
Blue also faulted O’Toole for failing to pursue a motion to keep the jury from hearing about the confession Foreshaw wrote out by hand after an interrogation lasting from 2 or 2:30 a.m. to 7 a.m. on the day of the shooting, March 27, 1986. Foreshaw wrote in the statement that she didn’t want to waive her rights and sign it.
The legal admissibility of Foreshaw’s statement “has never been assessed or challenged or tested in any court anywhere,” her current lawyer, Richard Emanuel of Guilford, told the panel at Monday’s meeting, held at the Board of Pardons and Paroles office opposite the Waterbury green.
Emanuel and lawyer Mary E. Werblin of Waterbury are asking the pardon panel to reduce Foreshaw’s sentence from 45 to 40 years so that she would be eligible for release from prison. Emanuel said Foreshaw, who wasn’t at Monday’s meeting, would live with a granddaughter and grandson if released.