Probe Sought in Terri Schiavo 911 Call
AP | June 17, 2005
TALLAHASSEE, Fla. -- Gov. Jeb Bush said Friday that a prosecutor has agreed to investigate why Terri Schiavo collapsed 15 years ago, citing an alleged time gap between when her husband found her and when he called 911.
Bush said his request for the probe was not meant to suggest wrongdoing by Michael Schiavo. "It's a significant question that during this ordeal was never brought up," Bush told reporters.
In a statement issued by his lawyer, Schiavo called the development an outrage.
"I have consistently said over the years that I didn't wait but 'ran' to call 911 after Terri collapsed," Schiavo said in the release.
In a letter faxed to Pinellas-Pasco County State Attorney Bernie McCabe, the governor said Michael Schiavo testified in a 1992 medical malpractice trial that he found his wife collapsed at 5 a.m. on Feb. 25, 1990, and he said in a 2003 television interview that he found her about 4:30 a.m. He called 911 at 5:40 a.m.
"Between 40 and 70 minutes elapsed before the call was made, and I am aware of no explanation for the delay," Bush wrote. "In light of this new information, I urge you to take a fresh look at this case without any preconceptions as to the outcome."
McCabe was out of state Friday and couldn't immediately be reached for comment, but Bush said McCabe has agreed to his request.
On Wednesday, Michael Schiavo's attorney, George Felos, said his client didn't wait to call for help and has conceded that he confuses dates and times. He has said that if Michael Schiavo had not called 911 immediately, as Bush and others allege, Terri Schiavo would have died that day.
"There is no hour gap or other gap to the point Michael heard Terri fall and called 911," Felos said. "We've seen the baseless allegations in this case fall by the wayside one by one ... That's what I would call it, a baseless claim to perpetuate a controversy that in fact doesn't exist."
Terri Schiavo died March 31 from dehydration after her feeding tube was disconnected at her husband's request, despite years of efforts by her parents, Bush and others to keep her alive.
The governor's request followed the release Wednesday of an autopsy supporting Michael Schiavo's contention that his wife had been in a persistent vegetative state. The autopsy revealed no evidence that she was strangled or otherwise abused before she collapsed.
It left unanswered the question of why Terri Schiavo's heart stopped, cutting oxygen off from her brain. The autopsy showed she suffered irreversible brain damage and her brain had shrunk to half the normal size for her age.
Bobby Schindler, Schiavo's brother, said Friday his family believes more questions were raised than answered by the autopsy report and that a new legal review is appropriate.
"Anything that can shed some light on the cause of Terri's collapse is going to be welcomed by our family," he said from Bloomington, Minn., where the family is speaking at an anti-abortion convention.
But the request was immediately criticized by some lawmakers.
"Enough is enough," said Democratic Sen. Ron Klein. "I don't want to see it on TV any more, I don't want to hear politicians talk about it. Let her be at peace."
Bush acknowledged in his letter that an investigation may be difficult.
"I understand that these events took place many years ago, and that you may not be able to collect all the relevant records and physical evidence. However, Mrs. Schiavo's family deserves to know anything that can be done to determine the cause and circumstances of her collapse 15 years ago," Bush wrote. "The unanswered questions may be unanswerable, but the attempt should be made."