Efforts underway to release lesbian inmate
by Timothy Cwiek
Dec 05, 2013 | 635 views | 0 0 comments | 22 22 recommendations | email to a friend | print
Advocates for Lois J. Farquharson, an 88-year-old lesbian who’s been incarcerated for 40 years, are scheduled to plead her case for clemency at a state Board of Pardons public hearing this week.

Farquharson is believed to be the oldest female inmate in Pennsylvania.

Her five previous requests for clemency have been rejected.

Farquharson won’t be attending the Dec. 6 hearing, but BOP members were expected to interview her privately.

Farquharson, a former psychiatrist, was convicted of first-degree murder in the August 1971 shooting death of Leon Weingrad, a physician.

Farquharson wasn’t the shooter, but authorities say she encouraged her then-lover, Gloria J. Burnette, to shoot Weingrad.

Weingrad reportedly didn’t approve of Farquharson’s relationship with Burnette, who was much younger than Farquharson and a former patient of hers.

Weingrad and Farquharson lived in the Society Hill Towers at the time of his death, and they were colleagues at the old Byberry State Hospital in Northeast Philadelphia.

In 1974, Farquharson was convicted of first-degree murder and given a life sentence without parole.

Burnette, who testified against Farquharson, was given a 20-year sentence and paroled in 1978.

By all accounts, Farquharson has been a model inmate at the state prison in Muncy. In the past, she worked in the prison’s law library, played the organ and directed the choir for inmates’ Catholic and Protestant church services, volunteered as a literacy tutor and participated in numerous charitable events.

Farquharson’s advocates hope BOP members will consider the positive changes in her life and recommend that Gov. Tom Corbett grant her clemency.

Farquharson is currently housed in the prison’s infirmary due to her frail condition, said her longtime friend, Jane C. Keller.

“She’s 88 years old, and weighs 86 pounds,” Keller told PGN. “She’s very frail, though is still able to walk. Always a highly intelligent woman, she’s beginning to show signs of dementia. Several prison staffers have encouraged me to look for a way to get her released. She’s clearly not a threat to society.”

Keller added: “We’re hoping the board will show compassion and forgiveness.”

Keller said she’ll provide housing for Farquharson if she’s released.

“There’s just no point to her incarceration anymore,” Keller concluded.

Susan Bensinger, a spokesperson for the state Department of Corrections, said information about Farquharson’s prison life will be presented at the public hearing.

“We recommended that Ms. Farquharson have a [BOP] hearing,” Bensinger told PGN. “At the hearing, we’ll present the facts about her situation in prison.”

The hearing is scheduled for 9:30 a.m. Dec. 6 in Room 437 of the Main Capitol Building in Harrisburg.

Relatives of Weingrad are expected to attend.

A unanimous vote by the BOP is necessary if a clemency recommendation is to reach Corbett’s desk.

The BOP members are Lt. Gov. Jim Cawley (who chairs the board), state Attorney General Kathleen G. Kane, Louise B. Williams (victims’ representative) and Harris Gubernick (corrections expert).

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