Florida Gov. Jeb Bush asked a state appeals court for permission to question witnesses and collect evidence to defend his right to stop the starvation death of Terri Schindler-Schiavo.
As WorldNetDaily has reported, Terri’s parents, Robert and Mary Schindler, have been locked in a lengthy legal battle with their son-in-law, Michael Schiavo, to stop him from disconnecting their brain-damaged daughter’s life-sustaining feeding tube. They also want to force him to get her rehabilitative therapy she has been denied for over a decade.
Schiavo, who is Terri’s legal guardian, insists his incapacitated wife told him she would not want to be kept alive “through artificial means.” Four years ago, he convinced Pinellas County probate court Judge George Greer to allow him remove her feeding tube.
Through a series of legal maneuvers the Schindlers managed to keep the case and their daughter alive, but their options appeared to have run out last year when the 2nd District Court of Appeal made a final ruling in Schiavo’s favor and the Florida Supreme Court refused to hear the case.
In October, Terri endured six days without nourishment and hydration before Florida lawmakers passed “Terri’s Law” that allowed the governor to intervene and order her feeding tube reinserted.
Schiavo promptly appealed the intervention, arguing Bush and the Legislature violated the separation-of-powers principle of government, as well as Terri’s right to privacy. The governor was specifically named as a party in the lawsuit.
On Nov. 20, Bush’s attorney Kenneth Connor notified Schiavo and the court he wanted to take the depositions of seven key witnesses, including Michael Schiavo himself and Jodi Centonze, the woman with whom he has lived for nine years and had two children.
Besides Schiavo and Centonze, Connor would like to question Schiavo’s brother Scott and sister-in-law Joan, who is married to another brother. Their testimony at the trial in Jan. 2000 was accepted as “clear and convincing” evidence of Terri’s wishes. Under oath, they recalled vague conversations with Terri 15 years earlier in which, they maintained, she had said she would not want to be kept alive “artificially.”
Their testimony validated Schiavo’s claims and convinced probate court Judge George Greer that Terri should be starved and dehydrated to death.
On Nov. 25, Schiavo’s attorney, George Felos, filed a Motion for Protective Order seeking to preclude the governor from taking the depositions.
A week later, Judge W. Douglas Baird, who has charge of the proceedings, granted Felos’ motion and threw out the governor’s request.
In this week’s filing with the 2nd District Court of Appeal, the governor asked why Schiavo was granted a “seven-figure award” in a medical malpractice suit against his wife’s physicians in 1992, without telling the jury about her wishes not to be kept alive with a feeding tube.
“Why did Mr. Schiavo present evidence regarding the cost of a long-term life care plan during that civil case when he knew that his wife wouldn’t want to live under those circumstances?” he asked.
Attorney George Felos said the issues raised by Bush are “irrelevant” or had been resolved in the earlier court proceedings.
Connor strongly disputes this.
“The governor never had an opportunity to participate in the previous claim [in the probate court], and there’s a lot that the governor is interested in bringing to light that hasn’t been brought to light in the previous case,” he told WorldNetDaily.
Connor offered a list of unanswered questions that have been raised but never satisfactorily answered by the probate court – all matters the governor would like to investigate.
- “Like, what were the circumstances surrounding Terri’s collapse [in 1990]?”
- “What is the explanation for these multiple fractures that were discerned on
this previous bone-scan
where the physician indicated they were consistent with trauma?”
- “Why were nursing notes destroyed and removed from the chart that commented on Terri’s responsiveness and her potential for rehabilitation?”
- “What is Terri’s amenability to swallowing therapy?”
- “What would Terri’s wishes have been regarding who made the end-of-life decision in her case had she known her husband was living with another woman?”
“There are just lots of unanswered question that weren’t developed in the previous case,” said Connor. “And we maintain very strongly that the governor has a right to present evidence and to cross-examine witnesses because he never participated in the other case and in the other case the rights under [Terri’s Law] were never adjudicated.”
Information, including court filings, are posted on the Schindler family website.