Marlowe's Shade

Monday, March 28, 2005

Blogburst for Terri: Missed Opportunity to Save Terri?

From Irrevocable Choice

Was I the only one that didn't catch this last week?

It looks like Jeb Bush made a play to take Terri into custody and was foiled by the local cops.

Hours after a judge ordered that Terri Schiavo wasn't to be removed from her hospice, a team of Florida law enforcement agents were en route to seize her and have her feeding tube reinserted - but they stopped short when local police told them they would enforce the judge's order, The Miami Herald has learned.

Agents of the Florida Department of Law Enforcement told police in Pinellas Park, the small town where Schiavo lies at Hospice Woodside, that they were on the way to take her to a hospital to resume her feeding.

For a brief period, local police, who have officers around the hospice to keep protesters out, prepared for what sources called a showdown.

In the end, the state agents and the Department of Children and Families backed down, apparently concerned about confronting local police outside the hospice.

"We told them that unless they had the judge with them when they came, they were not going to get in," said a source with the local police.

"The FDLE called to say they were en route to the scene," said an official with the city police who requested anonymity. "When the Sheriff's Department, and our department, told them they could not enforce their order, they backed off."

I can't fault Jeb Bush for backing down as this could have turned into all kinds of ugly:

The incident, known only to a few, underscores the intense emotion and murky legal terrain that the Schiavo case has created. It also shows that agencies answering directly to Florida Gov. Jeb Bush had planned to use a wrinkle in state law that would have allowed them to legally get around the judge's order. The exception in the law allows public agencies to freeze a judge's order whenever an agency appeals it.

Participants in the high-stakes test of wills, who spoke with The Miami Herald on the condition of anonymity, said they believed the standoff could ultimately have led to a constitutional crisis - and a confrontation between dueling lawmen.

"There were two sets of law enforcement officers facing off, waiting for the other to blink," said one official with knowledge of Thursday morning's activities. In jest, one official said local police discussed "whether we had enough officers to hold off the National Guard."

"It was kind of a showdown on the part of the locals and the state police," the official said. "It was not too long after that Jeb Bush was on TV saying that, evidently, he doesn't have as much authority as people think."

Bush's spokesperson and DCF officials denied it. But clearly something was afoot.

The developments that set Thursday morning's events in motion began the previous afternoon, when the governor and DCF chief Lucy Hadi held an impromptu news conference to announce that they were considering sheltering Schiavo under the state's adult protection law. The department has been besieged, officials say, by thousands of calls alleging Schiavo is the victim of abuse or neglect.

Alerted by the Bush administration that Schiavo might be on her way to their facility, officials at Morton Plant Hospital went to court Wednesday, asking Florida Circuit Judge George Greer, who ordered the removal of Schiavo's feeding tube last week, what to do.

"It's an extraordinary situation," said Beth Hardy, a hospital spokeswoman. "I don't think any of us has seen anything like it. Ever."

Greer signed an order Wednesday afternoon forbidding the department from "taking possession of Theresa Marie Schiavo or removing her" from the hospice. He directed "each and every and singular Sheriff of the state of Florida" to enforce his order.

I suppose cynics could say that Jeb telegraphed his moves and was going through the motions to give the impression he was doing something. But the ever smarmy George Felos couldn't resist gloating about the missed opportunity, which leads me to believe it was a sincere effort:

George Felos, the attorney for Schiavo's husband, Michael, said he doesn't think DCF officials knew of the window of opportunity they had created until well after they filed their appeal.

"Frankly, I don't believe when they filed their notice of appeal they realized that that gave them an automatic stay," Felos said. "When we filed our motion to vacate the automatic stay ... they realized they had a short window of opportunity and they wanted to extend that as long as they could.

"I believe that as soon as DCF knew they had an opportunity they were mobilizing to take advantage of it, without a doubt."

Had the state lawyers been sharper and mobilized immediately, perhaps Terri would be safely in custody right now.

What is also disturbing is the "loyalty" of the sheriff's department and local cops. The Empire Journal has done a great job of documenting the multiple conflicts of interest in this case. Sheriff Everett Rice has contributed to Greer's campaign and his department also hired Michael Schiavo as a nurse in the jail system. Other than that I'm not aware of any other collusion to cover the case up between Greer and the Sheriff's Departments, but the certainly appear zealous in carrying out Greer's execution orders.
papijoe 3:41 PM