Episode 25: The Good Doctor – Part 2

(If you haven’t listened to part one, go back and listen to that first.)

The good doctor is the story of Doctor Lois Farquharson. Lois was a psychiatrist at Philadelphia State Hospital at Byberry in 1971 when her girlfriend, Gloria Burnette, murdered their neighbor, Dr. Leon Weingrad who was also a colleague of Lois’ at the hospital.

Weingrad made life difficult for Lois and Gloria, in part because of his disdain for their relationship.  Whether they were at home or at work, Weingrad spread his negativity about Lois and Gloria, including complaining to their superiors at Byberry about their romantic relationship and Lois Farquharson’s abilities as a psychiatrist.

Although Gloria Burnette is the one who pulled the trigger, not once but three times, killing Leon Weingrad in the parking lot of their Society Hill Towers apartment complex, Lois is the one who was sentenced to life.  Lynne Abraham, who was an assistant district attorney at the time, argued that Lois was the mastermind behind the murder scheme, and treated Gloria like a puppet.  And although Gloria initially told police Lois had nothing to do with the murders, she testified against Lois in exchange for a lighter sentence, then recanted her testimony admitting she made it up for leniency.  And it didn’t matter.

Lois Farquharson was convicted of first degree murder and sentenced to life in prison.  Not conspiracy to commit murder, man slaughter, or even second degree murder.  Murder in the first degree.  And in Pennsylvania a life sentence means there is no possibility for parole.  In 2016 Lois Farquharson was the oldest living female inmate serving a life sentence, until she passed away in early January, 2017, at the age of 91.

Through my research about Lois Farquharson’s case I learned about organizations in Pennsylvania that promote education and awareness about rehabilitation and reconstruction within our prisons, and advocate for improved qualities of life for inmates serving life sentences.

This is what I love most about hosting this show – unexplored territory.  I’d never head of Reconstruction, Inc., or the Fight for Lifer’s before researching Lois Farquharson’s case.  I’d seen the video of the lady lifers, it was something I watched when I was perusing other Ted Ex videos and it’s a beautiful, powerful song, but I hadn’t given it much more thought than that.

Like the story about Sylvia Seegirst, my thoughts and opinions become open to other options.  I’m not trying to change your mind about the prison system in Pennsylvania, or any other state for that matter.  I’m not trying to get you to reconsider how you feel about inmates serving life in prison.  I’ve never lost someone to gun violence, murder, or at the hands of someone else.  So it’s easy for me in a way to be open minded to perspectives I hadn’t considered.   I’m not suggesting every inmate serving a life sentence in our country, and especially Pennsylvania, deserves compassionate release, or special treatment, or a pardon.  I am suggesting there may be more to the stories we see in the headlines – not every story, not every inmate, but some, even if it’s just one.  And in the case of this story, it was one person, Lois Farquharson – who lead me to learn more.   For more information about the organizations I share in this episode, please click the links below:  http://www.reconstructioninc.org/    


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