There were have been some dramatic developments in the case of West Hartford teenager Justina Pelletier.
“Justina Pelletier’s next hearing is slated for March 17, but a group of Massachusetts lawmakers is pushing for an immediate release,” explained FOX News journalist Beau Berman.
“According to Mass. State Representative Marc Lombardo, as of 5pm Wednesday, he and Rep. Jim Lyons had 12 representatives backing a resolution that would start the process of releasing Justina Pelletier to her parents right away.” Rep. Lombardo was to raise the resolution at the next House of Representatives session, set for March 5.
According to an article in the Lowell Sun, “The self-stated goal of the Department of Children and Families is to strengthen the link between families,” Lombardo said in a statement. “Removing a child from her family is reserved for only the most egregious circumstances where evidence of malicious intent, negligence or the blatant inability to care for the child is present. No such findings are present in this case.”
According to an article on MyFoxBoston.com, Lyons added: “The Pelletier case is a dispute between conflicting medical opinions, In my opinion, the decision on which medical treatment to adopt should rest with the parents, not with DCF. The Department’s heavy-handed, unjustified interference with the rights of these parents is an example of what is wrong with this agency.”
On Twitter, Lombardo thanked other State representatives that he said had signed onto the resolution, including Rep. Colleen Garry and Rep. Jim Miceli, both of whom are Democrats, making the Pelletier case a truly a bi-partisan issue.
Meanwhile, Connecticut legislators were busy organizing a bi-partisan effort of their own in anticipation of the return of Justina Pelletier to her home in New Hartford, Connecticut.
In just one day of time, Connecticut Senator Joe Markley managed to enlist the aid and support of twelve of his legislative colleagues in arranging a press conference that was held yesterday.
Senator Markley shared his concerns over the case at the conference that held at the Connecticut State Capitol.
The Pelletier family’s spokesperson, Reverend Patrick Mahoney, was also in attendance, as was Lou Pelletier, Justina’s father. Up until recently, Pelletier was bound by a gag order imposed on him by the Massachusetts judge presiding over family’s case – one that effectively prevented him from speaking publicly about the case.
On February 21, FOX News CT reporter Beau Berman reported that sources inside the Massachusetts Department of Children and Families, which has custody of Justina, “filed a motion to hold Lou Pelletier in contempt of court, accusing him of breaking the gag order.” That gag order was lifting the judge, and the contempt motion against him was dismissed.
During the press conference, Senator Markley shared a letter that he’d circulated to his colleagues that he would be delivering Connecticut Department of Children and Families Commissioner Joette Katz. In his letter, Markley urged the Department not to intervene in Justina’s cases, writing:
In the face of legal opposition and media scrutiny, it now appears that Massachusetts DCF wants to back away from this case and restore Justina to the custody of her parents. We see no reason for the Connecticut Department of Children and Families to involve itself in a case which has been so thoroughly examined to so little effect. This distressing story should end with Justina at home in the care of her parents, and we hope you will not delay that resolution.
Under questioning by the press, Senator Markley said that Massachusetts’ DCF had 13 months of time to construct a convincing case against the Pelltier family, and that during that time the agency had failed to provide any evidence of wrongdoing by the Pelltier family – nothing that would amount to something as damaging as an unpaid parking ticket.
“The assumption has to be that parents know best; and the grounds for government to step in have to be very clear and decisive. To say that one doctor disagrees with another doesn’t even begin to rise to that level,” Senator Markley explained.
Reverend Mahoney referenced the Pelltier case as “the canary in a coal mine” with respect to the unwarranted encroachment of parental rights by state authorities.
Mahoney explained that: “Thirteen months ago, she was ice skating. Justina was being educated, living a productive, wonderful life. Under the state of Massachusetts, she’s now in a wheelchair, her health is deteriorating, and she’s dropped to a second grade educational level.
“So I would just simply say ‘Who is the abusive party here?’ – and I would just leave that question open to the people.”
Lou Pelletier appeared reserved as he summarized his daughter’s case to the members of the news media in attendance. He also expressed his gratitude to FOX News CT reporter Beau Berman for having broken the story wide open.
Berman said on his February 21 broadcast that: “The medical mystery and custody nightmare for these parents is blowing up nationally and going viral online.
“At one point Wednesday, it was the number one most talked about topic on social media site Twitter, according to www.theblaze.com.”
By that time, the case had already been covered by sources as diverse as National Public Radio, Boston Globe, FOX News, People Magazine. as well as the United Kingdom’s The Mail, which carried an extensive interview with Justina’s parents, as well as photographs clearly depicting what the paper described as the “shocking decline” of a girl who was at one time a figure skater, and who had since so declined in Boston Children’s Hospital without proper medical care that she’ become “a shadow of her former self.”
After the press conference, Connecticut’s DCF sent Fox News CT a statement, saying, in part:
The Department of Children and Families understands the great pain and anguish that the Pelletier family has gone through over the course of their long ordeal. Our hearts go out to Justina, her parents, and the entire family. We too believe that children belong with their families whenever it is in the child’s best interest. Connecticut DCF has had communication with the Pelletier family and will continue to make efforts to be of assistance as Massachusetts authorities go through their process of deciding if Justina can return home. We also are assisting the Massachusetts authorities in gathering information in support of that decision making process.
WHERE FROM HERE?
“I’m going to be meeting with members of Congress to consider oversight hearings because clearly federal laws have been broken in the treatment and care of Justina,” said Rev. Mahoney during the conference.
Lou Pelletier will himself be speaking before the Massachusetts House of Representatives today, March 6, at 3:30pm. So far, 23 Massachusetts legislators are supporting a resolution to release Justina Pelletier to her family.
The next courtroom custody hearing is slated for March 17th, in Boston.
State Senator Joe Markley, Custodial Rights of Parents, Press Conference, VIDEO, March 5, 2014.
Parents Hail Small Victory for Sick Justina Pelletier, ABC News, March 5, 2014.
Senator Discourages State From Taking Custody Of Justina Pelletier, Hartford Courant, March 5, 2014.
Conn Legislators Sign Letter Asking State Agency ‘Not to Assume Custody and Care’ of Justina Pelletier, The Blaze, March 5, 2014.
‘Good News’ in the Justina Pelletier Case, The Blaze, March 3, 2014.
Judge approves shifting of Justina Pelletier’s care to Tufts Medical, Boston Globe, March 4, 2014.
First, Do No Harm: How We Failed Justina Pelletier and Her Family, Cristy Balcells, Executive Director MitoAction, Huffington Post, Feb 23, 2014.