Governor Bush Calls For Jury Trial In Schiavo Case
By Dave Reynolds, Inclusion Daily Express
November 19, 2003
TAMPA, FLORIDA--Attorneys representing Governor Jeb Bush filed legal briefs Wednesday arguing that a jury trial is needed to decide whether Terri Schiavo wanted to be kept alive by artificial means as her husband has testified.
Terri was 26 years old on February 25, 1990 when she collapsed and her brain was without oxygen for several minutes. Since then she has been able to breathe and regulate her own blood pressure. She receives food and water through a gastronomy tube inserted into her stomach. Michael Schiavo was granted permission by a local court to have Terri's feeding tube removed on October 15 of this year, based on his testimony that his wife told him she would not want to live by "artificial means".
Terri's parents, Bob and Mary Schindler have suspected that their daughter said no such thing. They also believe that Terri is alert, responsive and that she would improve with therapies that Mr. Schiavo has denied her for at least the last 10 years.
Governor Bush, responding to pressure from disability advocates and right-to-life groups, championed "Terri's Law" which gave him authority to have Terri's feeding tube reinserted on October 21. The law also called for an independent guardian to be appointed to review Terri's situation.
Mr. Schiavo, along with the American Civil Liberties Union, sued Bush on the grounds that the legislature and governor do not have the constitutional power to override court rulings. The law violates Terri's privacy and her right to have her wishes carried out.
Ken Connor, an attorney representing the governor, said that before a court can decide whether Terri's wishes weren't followed, a jury must first establish what her wishes were.
Also on Wednesday, Bush's attorneys filed a motion to have Pinellas Circuit Court Judge W. Douglas Baird removed from the case because he recently stated that the law violates Terri's rights.
On Tuesday, Judge Baird gave Bush's attorneys one day to explain why they believe "Terri's Law" should be allowed to stand.
The governor's attorneys had argued that they should not have to defend the constitutionality of the law until after the 2nd District Court of Appeal decides whether Mr. Schiavo's lawsuit was filed properly. The appellate court has not yet ruled on Bush's argument that the suit should have been filed in Tallahassee, and that the governor was not properly notified of the suit. But the court did say Tuesday that the suit can move forward while it considers Bush's challenge, prompting Baird to issue his order. The three-member panel also rejected the governor's request to dismiss the case entirely.
"It's very bad news for Terri and good news for the voices of death," said Schindler attorney Pat Anderson.
Terri's case has been watched closely by disability rights advocates for several years. Her husband and several doctors claim that she has been in a "persistent vegetative state" since her collapse. The courts have supported Mr. Schiavo's claims that Terri cannot recover from her injury, that she does not feel pain, and that she would not have wanted to live.
Terri's parents want Mr. Schiavo removed as their daughter's guardian. They suspect he wants her to die so that he can marry another woman with whom he has fathered two children, and so he can benefit from what's left of an insurance settlement that now pays for her treatment.
The Schindlers and advocates have defended Terri's right to live, noting that allowing her to die by starvation would reinforce the message that the lives of people with certain disabilities are not worth living.
"People hope that we can always trust the health care system and our guardians, acting in privacy, to do the right thing," Diane Coleman, founder of the disability rights group Not Dead Yet, said Friday. "Unfortunately, human nature being what it is, sometimes there are mistakes, and sometimes there are conflicts of interest."
"Opening Statement of Diane Coleman on Terri Schiavo Case" (Terri Schindler-Schiavo Foundation)
"Free Mumia! Kill Terri?" (The South End Online)
Background and past stories: "Terri Schiavo's Right To Live" (Inclusion Daily Express)