Tuesday, March 31, 2015

10 years ago: The execution of Terri Schiavo

I call heaven and earth to record this day against you, that I have set before you life and death, blessing and cursing: therefore choose life, that both thou and thy seed may live: Deuteronomy 30:19

No person shall be held to answer for a capital, or otherwise infamous crime, unless on a presentment or indictment of a Grand Jury, except in cases arising in the land or naval forces, or in the Militia, when in actual service in time of War or public danger; nor shall any person be subject for the same offence to be twice put in jeopardy of life or limb; nor shall be compelled in any criminal case to be a witness against himself, nor be deprived of life, liberty, or property, without due process of law; nor shall private property be taken for public use, without just compensation. Amendment V, Constitution of the United States (bold added by blogger)

Note: Although I quote from, and post links to Wikipedia entries in this post, I don't regard Wikipedia as authoritative, as its entries may be biased and inaccurate. The reader should exercise prudence in using it.

On March 31, 2005, Terri Schiavo, who had been severely brain-damaged since collapsing in her apartment building 15 years earlier, died in hospital in Pinellas Park, Florida, 13 days after Pinellas-Pasco County Circuit Court Judge George Greer ordered her feeding tube withdrawn, guaranteeing her death by gradual starvation.

The case was very much misreported in the media as a "right to die" case, when it would more accurately be termed a "right to kill" case. Mrs. Schiavo was not dead, and not dying; had not been charged with or convicted of any crime; and yet was ordered by a judge to be deliberately and gradually starved to death--a sentence that would likely have been ruled to be "cruel and unusual punishment" had it been imposed on a convicted murderer.

While Mrs. Schiavo was slowly starving to death, Florida Governor Jeb Bush and his brother, U.S. President George W. Bush, played legal games, pretending to act on Mrs. Schiavo's behalf while actually not exercising all their prerogatives, finally caving in and refusing to challenge Judge Greer's final order. According to the Wikipedia entry on the case, "If [Governor] Bush (or the Florida Legislature) had ignored Greer's order by attempting to remove her from the hospice, a confrontation between the Pinellas Park Police Department and the FDLE agents could have ensued." A confrontation is exactly what should have taken place. If Jeb or George W. Bush had shown up at the hospital with the intention of seeing Mrs. Schiavo's feeding tube reinserted--or had either Bush shown up with a glass of water for her--it's hard to imagine the police or National Guard refusing admittance to Governor or President Bush. As it is, we're asked to believe that a two-bit circuit court judge--who, in a corrupt practice unique to the United States, was elected to his position--could overrule the highest official in the state of Florida and the chief executive of the United States.

There were pro-life protesters outside the hospital in Florida (one prominent individual who was notable by his absence and silence was "America's Pastor," Rick Warren), and occasionally someone would attempt to go inside and take a glass of water to Mrs. Schiavo, only to be forcibly turned back by the authorities. For readers who have forgotten or are too young to remember, it might come as a shock to realize that attempting to ease the suffering of Terri Schiavo as she was being starved to death was actually against the law (Romans 13 extremists, please take note). As an aside, it's worth remembering that when Jesus' disciples picked grain on the Sabbath, the Pharisees accused them of breaking the law, and when the Pharisees were looking for a reason to accuse Jesus and wondered if He would heal on the Sabbath, He asked them if it were lawful to do good or to do evil, to save life or destroy it--and then He healed a man with a withered hand (Matthew 12:1-14; Luke 6:1-11). Jesus faced similar accusations from the Pharisees when He healed the invalid man at Bethesda (John 5:2-16).

One of the things that disturbed me about the Schiavo case is that some who claimed to be conservatives opposed government--especially federal government--intervention to save Terri Schiavo, arguing that such action was an invasion of the state's jurisdiction--or similar legalistic mumbo-jumbo. Such arguments struck this blogger as the sort of reasoning that Pharisees would have used. Such "conservative" opponents of Mrs. Schiavo's rescue really seemed to want her dead.

Those interested in the details of the Terri Schiavo case may conduct their own searches for information. The best commentary that I've seen on the case has come from veteran columnist Nat Hentoff. Mr. Hentoff is an ethnic Jew who's a professing atheist, but he's a strong advocate against abortion and euthanasia, and has a great reverence for and knowledge of the United States Constitution. He points out that Mrs. Schiavo's Fifth Amendment right not to be deprived of life and liberty without due process of law was denied, and that her death was in fact an execution ordered by a judge against someone who had not been charged with or convicted of any crime, but who was to be put to death because her life was inconvenient to certain people. I recommend the following columns by Mr. Hentoff:

November 5, 2003: Should Terri Schiavo stay alive? A legal answer

Novermber 11, 2003: New hope for Terri Schiavo

April 14, 2005: Polls distort Terri's life and death

July 7, 2005: The continuing case of Terri Schiavo

August 31, 2006: Michael Schiavo versus Joe Lieberman

March 26, 2008: Barack Obama vs. Terri Schiavo

April 3, 2008: Terri Schiavo's lifesaving legacy

Not Dead Yet is an organization advocating on behalf of people with disabilities and against euthanasia. A search of their site using the term "Terri Schiavo" will turn up useful information and commentary.

Mrs. Schiavo, like those of her family who wanted to save her life, was a Roman Catholic. I find it interesting that she died two days before Pope John Paul II died, and six days after the 10th anniversary of the publication of Pope John Paul's encyclical Evangelium Vitae, which condemned abortion and euthanasia as crimes that no human laws could legitimize.

We don't know if Terri Schiavo would be alive in 2015 had she not been executed, but Judge George Greer is still alive, and turns 73 in 2015. Judge Greer, a Republican--another possible shock, to those who think of Republicans as being the pro-life party--retired in 2010 when his term expired. According to his Wikipedia entry, he received at least five honours in 2005 from various legal associations, which speaks volumes about the "ethics" of the legal profession in the United States in the 21st century. As the son of an appeal court judge, I'm appalled and ashamed to see some of those who wear the robes of the judiciary now. When Judge Greer received the 2005 Special Justice Award from the Pasco Bar, the association's president, Joan Hook, was quoted as saying, "He is very meticulous in his decisions and he is a supporter of the law, doesn't let his emotions or personal feelings get in the way of his analysis of the law." Those "personal feelings" would presumably include anything resembling human decency or compassion. I imagine similar comments could have (and probably were) made about judges in Germany from 1933-1945 who didn't let their emotions or personal feelings get in the way of applying the laws of the Nazi regime. At the time of the Schiavo case, Judge Greer was reportedly affiliated with Calvary Baptist Church--associated with the Southern Baptist Convention--in Clearwater, Florida, but withdrew his membership after others in the church expressed opposition to his rulings--and to his presence in the church--and pastor William Rice asked him to clarify his position in the church.

Jeb Bush, who took office as Governor of Florida in 1999, finished his second term in 2007. He's being touted as a possible Republican Party nominee for President of the United States in 2016. Given the Republicans' recent history of pretending to oppose the Democrats while deliberately nominating bad presidential candidates, I wouldn't be surprised if Mr. Bush won the nomination.

George W. Bush finished his second term as President of the United States in 2009; the unprosecuted war criminal remains at large.

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