Government & Constitution

Bay State Gov. Patrick dodges questions, chance to ‘Free Justina’

Bay State Gov. Patrick dodges questions, chance to 'Free Justina'
(Courtesy of Liberty Counsel)

The governor of Massachusetts refuses to address why state agency is holding severely ailing Connecticut teen hostage for 14 months instead of sending her home to be in the care of her family and her doctors.

“If Justina Pelletier dies in the state’s care, that’s on the hands of Gov. Deval L. Patrick,” said Brian Camenker, founder and executor director of Mass Resistance, a Waltham-based pro-family action center, who filed H.D. 4212 with the state House in early April.  If signed into law, the measure would release 15-year-old Justina to her parents Linda and Lou Pelletier who reside in West Hartford, Conn.

Members of the family describe Justina, who was an athlete and competitive skater in declining health and in a wheel chair, he said. “I don’t have the medical evidence but some say she could die.”

Outside the Massachusetts State House this week, Rev. Patrick Mahoney, the designated spokesman for the family, confronted Patrick and demanded the governor act in his power to overrule his Children and Families Department to facilitate an immediate reunification with the family.

“Release her now,” said Mahoney. “Justina should be home in Connecticut with her family.”

Massachusetts Gov. Deval L. Patrick speaking from the pulpit of Boston's Cathedral of the Holy Cross. (Courtesy)

Massachusetts Gov. Deval L. Patrick speaking from the pulpit of Boston’s Cathedral of the Holy Cross. (Courtesy)

During the confrontation, Patrick said to the Presbyterian minister he could not talk about the case.

The governor told Mahoney he should address his concerns to Judge Joseph Johnston of Suffolk County Juvenile Court, who is presiding over the matter. and who has jurisdiction.

Patrick said, “Whether you believe it or not, the court has jurisdiction, not us.”

That is not true, said Camenker.

“Patrick has the authority to release Justina,” he said.  “The governor and the legislature both control DCF; they have the legal right to do whatever they want.”

All it would take is a 10-minute phone call, he said.

In addition to Justina’s continuing deteriorating health being a concern, he said there are reports that the care she has been receiving under state custody has been neglectful.

“Justina cannot attend Church services, she has not been to school in over a year, and she has been complaining of mistreatment,” said Camenker.

Liberty Counsel, an international family rights legal assistance organization representing the Pelletiers, maintains that in February 2013, when Justina’s parents refused to sign a medical plan committing to the end of any medical treatment or medications with no ability to obtain a second opinion, Boston Children’s Hospital unlawfully alleged medical abuse.

The state prevented the Pelletiers from discharging their daughter from BCH, said Camenker. “The Pelletiers wanted to bring Justina back to Tufts Medical Center where she had been treating for Mitochondrial Disease for several years.”

Watch protesters confront Massachusetts Gov. Deval L. Patrick about Justina Pelletier:

There have been various attempts by the state legislature to pressure the governor to provide a solution to this terrible situation, but none have been sufficient, he said. “We wanted a bill with teeth in it. We want to make something happen.”

The state agency has a long history of children being mistreated, lost, and sometimes killed in their custody, he said.

Last weekend authorities found the remains of five-year-old Jeremiah Oliver alongside the road. Oliver had been missing from DCF care since September, he said.

“The Pelletier case is just the latest thing,” said Camenker. “This could happen to anybody.”

H.D. 4212 raises concerns about the removal of Justina from the custody of her family, the process that led to the breaking up of this family, and Justina’s deteriorating health. The measure resolves that the Commonwealth of Massachusetts and DCF immediately release Justina from their custody to the sole custody of her parents.

There is a sense of urgency in this case, said Camenker.

“People have been calling from all over the country and state demanding we pass this bill,” he said. “The people are outraged.”

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