But the judge's order leaves the parents' and husband's attorneys arguing after the hearing.
By WILLIAM R. LEVESQUE
Published May 27, 2004
CLEARWATER - A Pinellas-Pasco judge ordered Michael Schiavo to allow his in-laws an unsupervised visit with his brain-damaged wife on Saturday until he decides how to settle a dispute over visitation.
Bob and Mary Schindler say they have been barred or restricted from visiting their daughter, Terri Schiavo, since a March 29 dispute about mysterious marks on her arms.
A hearing on visitation ended Wednesday with attorneys arguing about what Judge George Greer's order meant.
Attorney Deborah Bushnell, representing Michael Schiavo, said she is recommending to Schiavo that someone else be present this weekend during the parents' visit to ensure the woman's safety.
Attorney Pat Anderson, who represents Mrs. Schiavo's parents, said the judge's order forbids that supervision.
As Anderson walked out of court, she told Bushnell, "You're going to burn in hell, lady."
Bushnell responded, "Quit grandstanding."
Greer said in court that he would allow a 90-minute visit for the Schindlers and Mrs. Schiavo's brother and sister. The judge said the visit "need not be supervised."
On March 29, a nursing assistant at an assisted living facility in Clearwater said she found tiny marks on Terri Schiavo's arms that looked as if they had been made by a needle. She noticed the marks after the Schindlers had visited their daughter.
Clearwater police were called, and Michael Schiavo suspended the Schindlers' visitation, pending an investigation.
Earlier this month, police closed their investigation after finding no evidence of a crime.
Nonetheless, Michael Schiavo wants the parents' visitation to occur only with someone else present. He previously has proposed that the Schindlers hire a guard to watch them.
Bushnell and attorney Scott Swope said visitation needs to be restricted because Robert Schindler acknowledges violating a court order last year by secretly videotaping his daughter.
They also questioned whether police fully cleared the Schindlers after the marks were found on their daughter.
The lawyers say a group called Life Legal Defense Fund that pays Anderson's legal fees is offering the video in exchange for $100 donations. Schindler said he had no idea the group was doing so and doesn't know how the group got the video.
Greer said he was concerned that Schindler acknowledged violating a court order.
The judge said he would rule by June 4 whether to impose any restrictions on the Schindlers' visitation.
Mrs. Schiavo has been kept alive by a feeding tube for more than 14 years since she collapsed from a chemical imbalance that may have been related to bulimia.
Her husband wants to remove the tube, saying she cannot recover and would not want to live in her current condition.
The Schindlers disagree, saying she might be helped with therapy.
Her tube was removed for six days last October before Florida lawmakers adopted legislation allowing Gov. Jeb Bush to order doctors to reinsert the tube.
The constitutionality of the law is eventually expected to be decided by the Florida Supreme Court.