Schiavos parents win time
By ANITA KUMAR
© St. Petersburg Times, published April 21, 2001
TAMPA -- Just three hours before a controversial right-to-life case was set to end Friday, a federal judge halted the removal of Terri Schiavo's feeding tube and gave her parents until Monday to continue their appeals.
Mrs. Schiavo's parents, Bob and Mary Schindler, plan to appeal to the 11th Circuit Court of Appeals in Atlanta and the U.S. Supreme Court before Monday's 5 p.m. deadline -- their only remaining legal remedies.
The ruling came at the close of a brief but tense hearing Friday morning that included a scolding of the Schindlers' attorneys by U.S. District Judge Richard Lazzara, who didn't believe the case belonged in federal court.
"I'm not without feeling. I'm a parent too," Lazzara said. "But I'm bound my jurisdiction, and I don't have jurisdiction to act here. You are asking me to second-guess the trial judge, the 2nd District Court of Appeal and the justices of the Florida Supreme Court."
Despite his stern words, the judge's ruling marked the first court victory -- albeit a minor one -- that the Schindlers have had since their feud over Mrs. Schiavo's care began with their son-in-law, Michael Schiavo, eight years ago.
"It's like a reprieve," said Schindler, standing among a crowd of reporters on the steps of the courthouse. "We're delighted. We're still in the game."
Mrs. Schiavo, 37, who has spent 11 years in a persistent vegetative state, would die one to two weeks after her tube was removed. Her husband, who has been engaged to another woman for five years, had court permission to remove her feeding tube at 1 p.m. Friday.
Michael Schiavo was not present at Friday morning's hearing in Tampa. George Felos, Schiavo's attorney, said he was disappointed with the judge's ruling even though he believes they will win the legal battle in the end.
"It's another hurdle for him and for her," Felos said. "It delays the inevitable, but it is the inevitable."
After an emotional trial last year, Pinellas-Pasco Circuit Judge George Greer ruled that Mrs. Schiavo would not want her life extended by a feeding tube. That decision was upheld by the 2nd District Court of Appeal and essentially by the Florida Supreme Court, which refused to intervene.
This week, as Friday's deadline grew closer, the Schindlers' attorneys turned to a federal judge. They asked Lazzara to order Greer to hold another trial because Mrs. Schiavo was denied her right to have a lawyer represent her at the first trial last year.
Lazzara said he didn't have the authority to get involved in the case but did give the Schindlers time to appeal to the 11th Circuit Court of Appeals.
Mrs. Schiavo collapsed at her St. Petersburg home on Feb. 25, 1990. Her heart stopped, and she was deprived of oxygen for five minutes.
She breathes and sleeps, moans and smiles. Her brown eyes dart around her room between blinks. She can turn her head and opens and closes her mouth.
Doctors say she is unaware of what is happening around her. But her parents say she responds to sounds and sights.
The Schindlers and Schiavo have accused each other of trying to control Mrs. Schiavo's fate to get $700,000 she received in 1993 from a malpractice suit.
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