Attorneys for the parents of Terri Schiavo filed a new motion claiming a trial judge made a reversible error that affected his determination of whether the brain-damaged Florida woman would want to be kept alive in her present condition.
Parents Robert and Mary Schindler contend Pinellas County Probate Court George Greer made a “clear mistake” when he discounted the testimony of Diane Meyer, who said that in 1982 Terri Schiavo told her she did not agree with the well-known decision by Karen Ann Quinlan’s parents to take their daughter off life support.
Florida law allows for consideration of oral expressions of end-of-life wishes. Husband Michael Schiavo claims his wife told him she would not want to be keep alive through artificial means, but her parents don’t believe that.
Terri Schiavo is not hooked up to any machines, but she requires a small feeding tube for nourishment and hydration. In 2000, Greer ordered that the tube be removed, and last week, denying a motion for a further stay, gave the Schindlers until March 18 at 1 p.m. to appeal before the order is carried out.
At the 2000 trial, Greer, although initially finding Meyer’s testimony ‘believable,’ concluded that the conversation could not have occurred in 1982, because he believed Quinlan died in 1976. At that time, Terri would have been only 11 or 12 years old and, therefore, would not have made her end-of-life wishes as an adult.
The new motion contends it was Greer who was mistaken and not Meyer, because Quinlan did not die until 1985, about 9 years after her court case ended and her respirator was removed.
None of the attorneys working on the Schiavo case in 2000 apparently noticed the mistake in dates, according to the Schindlers’ attorney David Gibbs.
“No one told Judge Greer that Karen Ann Quinlan was alive in 1982, making it entirely appropriate for Diane and Terri to discuss her situation in the present tense,” his firm said in a statement.
Gibbs said that if Greer’s 2000 order authorizing husband Michael Schiavo to end his wife’s life were a criminal death sentence, Terri Schiavo would be entitled to a new trial on the basis of a reversible error.
“Although Terri is not a criminal, she is still under a court-imposed death order, an order that is the equivalent of a death penalty,” Gibbs said. “Therefore, we are asking Judge Greer to correct his mistake by either reversing his 2000 order or conducting a new trial.”
As WorldNetDaily reported last week, Greer denied the Schindlers’ motion for an indefinite stay to pursue medical tests that might prove their daughter could benefit from physical therapy.
Terri Schiavo collapsed under disputed circumstances Feb. 25, 1990, suffering severe brain damage when her heart stopped momentarily. Michael Schiavo contends his wife had an eating disorder, and the court agreed she is in a “persistent vegetative state,” but her parents suspect he tried to strangle her, and insist that while mentally handicapped, she recognizes people and responds to stimuli.
The Schindlers want to get TV cameras in their daughter’s room at the Woodside Hospice in Pinellas Park, Fla., where she lives, to document that she is not “comatose,” as often has been reported. But Michael Schiavo keeps tight control of the vistors list and has barred filming and photographing.
The family’s hopes also have been lifted by news that Florida’s Department of Children and Families is launching an abuse probe. If neglect or abuse can be proved, the state can take over guardianship from Michael Schiavo.
The Schindlers have filed motions to remove their son-in-law as Terri’s guardian, arguing he is her husband in name only and consistently has sought to withhold care and therapy. Michael Schiavo has been living for 10 years with fiance Jodi Centonze, with whom he has two children, and plans to marry her upon Terri’s death.
Another option for the Schindlers is an appeal to the U.S. Supreme Court on religious liberty grounds, asserting Terri Schiavo’s Catholic beliefs would be violated by invoking her “right to die.”
Meanwhile, the National Right to Life Committee is calling on Congress to enact a bill to be introduced by Rep. Dave Weldon, R-Fla., that would give the Schindler family access to a federal court to argue for the life of their daughter.
“Congress can act to ensure a federal court hearing on whether or not Terri will die of starvation and dehydration,” said Lori Kehoe, congressional liaison for NRLC’s Robert Powell Center for Medical Ethics.
Kehoe said a proceeding known as the “writ of habeas corpus” been used to give a hearing to those whose liberty has been constrained by state courts in violation of the Constitution or federal laws.
Weldon plans to introduce the bill March 8.
“We call on all citizens to immediately contact their U.S. senators and representatives and urge them to support Representative Weldon’s bill to amend the Habeas Corpus Act to allow its use when a state court orders denial of food or fluids in cases like Terri’s,” Kehoe said.
Court documents and other information are posted on the Schindler family website.
Links to all “Terri briefs” regarding the governor’s defense of Terri’s Law are on the Florida Supreme Court website, public information.