« From a reader: | Main | Toying with Evil »

March 09, 2005


Sydney Carton

If Instapundit took up this case, then there'd be a reaction. Sadly, he views aging as a disease (witness his commentary on relatives in nursing homes, and his repeated linking to science articles hoping to "cure" aging). That's why there's been no real blogstorm over this.

James Freeman

Given the outrageous nature of Judge George Greer's rulings -- going so far as to forbid feeding Terri Schiavo by mouth -- is it possible to file a criminal complaint against him on grounds of attempted murder or solicitation thereof?

Could Terri's parents file a complaint with the local police or prosecutor, or -- ideally -- might the local prosecutor or the Florida attorney general's office throw politics and self-interest out the window and file charges?

If this could be pulled off, at least that might be grounds to get him removed from the case.



A similar thought occurred to me. Can Greer, Felos, and Schiavo be charged with conspiracy to commit murder or some similar charges as you describe?

Jay Anderson

Judge Greer may be a complete dirtbag but, absent some clear showing of wrongdoing or criminal mischief on his part, he is immune from prosecution for his rulings from the bench.

We may not like it, but it's a good thing. Separation of powers-wise, we wouldn't want the executive branch of government arresting judges because of rulings it doesn't like.

That's 3rd world stuff.

James Freeman

Jay writes:

We may not like it, but it's a good thing. Separation of powers-wise, we wouldn't want the executive branch of government arresting judges because of rulings it doesn't like.

That's 3rd world stuff.

Rulings we don't like are one thing; mandating from the bench patently illegal acts is another. And last I heard, euthanasia -- no, euthanasia presumes a "humane" form of murder -- ghoulish, Naziesque forms of torturous execution are patently illegal in Florida.

If a judge has the right to do that with impunity from the bench, then our legal system is seriously flawed. PARTICULARLY when appellate courts have no problem with his actions.

"Third world" my suggestion might be, but (in case you hadn't noticed) the "First World" ain't faring so well itself these days.

It is cases such as this that are fodder for serious contemplation of a government's legitimacy. If a regime not only refuses to protect innocent life, but also actively engages in murdering the most vulnerable of its citizens, what moral obligation does one have to submit to it?

Or, more accurately, are we compelled as Christians -- and by the philosophical foundations of our republic -- to actively resist it?

THAT is the legal can of worms Judge Greer is hacking away at with his church key. I really, really, really don't think -- for all our sakes -- he wants to go there.

Jay Anderson

James, I don't disagree with you. Especially the part about evil acts calling into question a government's legitimacy.

I'm just telling you (1) why it's very unlikely that Judge Greer will be arrested and prosecuted for his rulings in this particular case and (2) why generally it's a good thing that it doesn't happen.

James Freeman

Frankly, if the present Republican administration were anything but indifferent to pro-life values and protecting (instead of taking advantage of) society's weakest members, a civil-rights lawsuit would have been filed long ago.

Maybe if someone told President Bush that Terri could be rehabilitated and would be willing to work for $3 a hour with no benefits, so that small-business owners might be "protected" . . . .

Jay Anderson

I knew somehow that Terri's predicament, just like the tsunami and every other evil that has ever befallen the world, had to be all Bush's fault.

James Freeman

No, the tsunami wasn't Bush's fault.

But you fail to address why, given a denial of fundamental civil rights as egregious as this, the Bush Administration hasn't put the Justice Department's Civil Rights Division to work.

That division is well capable of delivering a healthy dose of legal "shock and awe" . . . when an administration has the will to use all the tools at its disposal.


It's interesting that Judge Greer considers himeself to be a devout Christian, or so I've read.

William Luse

It's quite simple, really. Under Florida law, nutrition and hydration are considered "life-prolonging procedures" that may be withdrawn if a patient has been medically determined to be in a persistent vegetative state. The page containing that law is here. It is a very long page, but here are some relevant excerpts:

1) Nothing in this chapter shall be construed to condone, authorize, or approve mercy killing or euthanasia, or to permit any affirmative or deliberate act or omission to end life other than to permit the natural process of dying.

"Life-prolonging procedure" means any medical procedure, treatment, or intervention, including artificially provided sustenance and hydration, which sustains, restores, or supplants a spontaneous vital function.

For persons in a persistent vegetative state...life-prolonging procedures may be withheld or withdrawn under the following conditions:

The guardian and the person's attending physician, in consultation with the medical ethics committee of the facility where the patient is located, conclude that the condition is permanent and that there is no reasonable medical probability for recovery and that withholding or withdrawing life-prolonging procedures is in the best interest of the patient.

Therefore, euthanasia being forbidden, it is clear that the law does not consider the withdrawal of food and hydration from a permanently 'vegetative' patient to be an act of that kind, but rather one that would 'permit the natural process of dying.' By legislative fiat, the question of murder has been begged into nonexistence. Higher courts have refused all appeals. If you want to save her, you'll have to change the law. And fast.


To follow up William Luse's point, the various claims about Judge Greer seem to assume that any honest judge who applied Florida law would have ruled differently. The fact of the matter is that the applicable Florida law was designed for the express purpose of lowering the legal barriers to termination of treatment and care. If Judge Greer had held, for example, that he had to rule against Michael Schiavo's position because there was no written documentation of Terri Schiavo's wishes, that ruling would be wrong as a matter of Florida law, and would have been overturned in a heartbeat.

I would also point out that passing a special law to address the individual case of Terri Schiavo will not stop the application of this general rule of Florida law in any other case.

The following short article about Judge Greer makes clear he is anything but a legal radical:


(None of this is to say that Florida law is right, of course; it's just to say that it's what the law there currently happens to be.)


When Chief Justice Taney told Lincoln it was unconstitutional to rid Habeus Corpus (during the Civil War) Lincoln just ignored him.

Fr. Rob Johansen

While Mr. Luse and Alkali are correct about the regrettable state of Florida law, you cannot on that basis absolve Judge Greer of responsibility.

Judge Greer ruled that Terri is PVS on the basis of medical "evidence" that most neurologists find laughable, without medical tests such as an MRI, which is considered standard for diagnosing PVS. Judge Greer specifcally and repeatedly denied requests that Terri be given an MRI, PET, and other neurologiocal exams. The principal doctor for Michael Schiavo was Dr. Ronald Cranford, a well known advocate of the "right-to-die" movement. He was accepted as an expert witness by Judge Greer in spite of a mountain of evidence demonstrating that he could harldy be considered "objective" or "disinterested" in the outcome of Terri's case. Dr. Cranford's diagnosis of PVS, and pronouncements such as that parts of Terri's brain had "liquefied", were made on the basis of CT scans, which are utterly inadequate, indeed, incapable of providing evidence for such conclusions.

Judge Greer also ruled that Michael's contention that Terri "wouldn't want to live this way" was proved by "clear and convincing evidence" in spite of the fact that it was introduced years after Terri's injury, after Terri received a million-dollar settlement, for which he stood as heir-at-law in the even of Terri's death, and which he had managed to completely avoid uttering to another living soul in the course of three separate legal proceedings about Terri. Oh, and don't forget the fact that Judge Greer allowed George Felos to violate civil trial procedure in order to admit Michael's testimony in the first place.

Yes, that Judge Greer is a quiet model of judicial rectitude...

William Luse

No one is absolving Judge Greer, who gives every appearance of being a smug, self-assured, infallible bigot. Quite possibly he is a monster of Hitlerian persuasion. But my point remains: no court has yet, nor does it seem one will, overturn him or remove him. Though I am sceptical of the diagnosis, he can find plenty of medical folks to support the contention that Terri's condition is 'vegetative', and that's all he needs. My position is that her condition is irrelevant. A PVS patient should no more be subject to murder than any other. Unless the class known as 'PVS' is taken off the list of conditions considered terminal, as an end-of-life stage - or unless Judge Greer has an unlikely change of heart - Terri and all like her are doomed. Change the law.


Dr. Cranford's diagnosis of PVS, and pronouncements such as that parts of Terri's brain had "liquefied", were made on the basis of CT scans, which are utterly inadequate, indeed, incapable of providing evidence for such conclusions.

I don't think that's right. A CAT scan shows brain structures (see here). (If someone has an otherwise physically intact brain, you might need to do further tests to diagnose PVS.)

Fr. Rob Johansen


I have consulted with several neurologists, including a professor of neurology at a a major medical school, and they tell me that a CT scan is useful only for ascertaining gross, large-scale damage, such as that resulting from trauma. A CT scan cannot provide the resolution necessary for diagnosing the fine structural details of the brain.

Said one neurologist:

A CT scan gives you only 1/10th the information an MRI does... A head CT can give useful info in trauma, and also during the few days after an anoxic brain injury. The swelling of brain can be seen, albeit poorly, with CT scan. For subsequent evaluation of brain injury, the CT is pretty useless unless there has been a massive stroke.

Another neurologist said "I can't believe that a doctor could make a statement like 'Terri's cortex has been replaced by fluid' without advanced imaging, such as an MRI."


It appears that Judge Greer can remain smug in his belief that he is interpreting the "law" correctly. However, when there is no jury, he must also make a determination of the facts, and it is in making such determination that he has failed miserably. His obstinate refusal to consider additional information or admit that he perhaps erred in factual determinations is disgraceful. Ego is often the enemy of justice.

chris K

I just can hardly believe THIS:


I think the judge himself not only could use a scan of his own brain, but also one a little lower to determine if he even has a heart.

To admit that he made "a technical" error which actually determined the judgment of killing Terri but now not taking the responsibility for the mistake, the Attorney Generals of both the state and federal have to step in and put a straight jacket on this justice gone mad. I hope everyone here is calling their representatives and insisting on immediate action on the bill in congress.

Christopher Rake

How about this?

Man offers $1 million to save Terri Schiavo


Is this Judge on the take? OR is it he has a history of ruling against women? Anybody doing any digging?????????

John McMillan

Neurologists typically know very little about imaging procedures (although they THINK they do). CT scans are actually quite adequate and can provide excellent anatomic detail. Both modalities (CT &MRI)have their places and such blanket statements as mentioned above are puerile. But with regard to the first few days after anoxic injury, CT findings are often subtle. For MRI, it depends on the sequences obtained. But aren't we past that time frame for TS?

Verify your Comment

Previewing your Comment

This is only a preview. Your comment has not yet been posted.

Your comment could not be posted. Error type:
Your comment has been saved. Comments are moderated and will not appear until approved by the author. Post another comment

The letters and numbers you entered did not match the image. Please try again.

As a final step before posting your comment, enter the letters and numbers you see in the image below. This prevents automated programs from posting comments.

Having trouble reading this image? View an alternate.


Post a comment

Comments are moderated, and will not appear until the author has approved them.

Your Information

(Name is required. Email address will not be displayed with the comment.)