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    Schiavo case has July 23 deadline

    The circuit judge who has ruled that Terri Schiavo would want to die will again preside. Both sides see it as a victory.

    By ANITA KUMAR

    © St. Petersburg Times,
    published July 12, 2001


    photo
    Terri Schiavo
    photo
    Michael Schiavo
    The tug-of-war over Terri Schiavo's life will end with the Pinellas judge who presided over the family's emotional trial last year and repeatedly ruled that she would want to die.

    The 2nd District Court of Appeal returned the controversial case to Pinellas-Pasco Circuit Judge George Greer on Wednesday, but ruled that Mrs. Schiavo cannot be taken off life support until after July 23.

    Mrs. Schiavo's parents, Bob and Mary Schindler, who have fought to keep their brain-damaged daughter alive for years, have until July 20 to provide Greer with any new evidence before he reconsiders his initial ruling.

    Both the Schindlers and Mrs. Schiavo's husband, Michael, consider Wednesday's lengthy and complex ruling a victory, but the decision was more of a mixed bag for both sides.

    The Schindlers succeeded in keeping the case going after a series of courts ruled that Mrs. Schiavo could die. Schiavo succeeded in having the case sent back to Greer after another circuit judge, Frank Quesada, ordered her feeding to be resumed after 50 hours without food and water.

    "Thank God, we will be able to continue with this thing," Schindler said Wednesday evening from his home in St. Petersburg.

    In reversing Quesada's April ruling, the appellate court was clear in its opinion that the judge made a mistake. "The order granting the injunction lacked the necessary findings," according to the ruling. "Moreover, the pleadings and the evidence supporting the injunction were insufficient."

    Quesada declined to comment on the ruling Wednesday, except to point out that the appellate court's decision will ultimately have the same effect as his April ruling. Both rulings allow a judge to consider new evidence before Mrs. Schiavo's feeding tube is removed.

    Patricia Anderson, one of the Schindlers' attorneys, said the couple will ask Greer to consider new testimony from six doctors who say Mrs. Schiavo can be rehabilitated and two of Schiavo's former friends who say he did not know whether his wife would have wanted to be kept alive on life support.

    "It's fabulous," Anderson said. "There is a chance to turn around an injustice here.'

    George Felos, Schiavo's attorney, said the appellate court does not believe that type of evidence will be sufficient to change Greer's original decision.

    "Any proceeding to challenge a final order on this basis is extraordinary and should not be filed merely to delay an order," the court ruled.

    [Times file photo: James Borchuck]
    Mary Schindler and Bob Schindler, parents of Terri Schiavo.

    Greer will decide after July 20 whether to hear from Michael Schiavo or hold a hearing -- as Anderson will request -- before once again deciding whether Mrs. Schiavo would want to be kept alive after 11 years in what doctors describe a persistent vegetative state.

    But, as with almost everything in this case, Wednesday's ruling does leave the door open for other options.

    The Schindlers could ask the appellate court to reconsider its ruling before Monday. Greer could order the feeding tube removed later this month without providing the Schindlers time to appeal the decision. The Schindlers could also file a separate lawsuit -- to be heard by Greer -- alleging that Schiavo defrauded the court.

    Another judge, Susan Schaeffer, already is hearing another lawsuit the Schindlers filed against Schiavo, asking for money for their pain and suffering.

    Mrs. Schiavo collapsed at her St. Petersburg home on Feb. 25, 1990. Her heart stopped, and she was deprived of oxygen for five minutes.

    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 from a 1992 malpractice suit. Only about half of that remains; much of it has been used to pay for Schiavo's legal expenses and Mrs. Schiavo's medical care.

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