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Stay extended in Schiavo case until Friday; Florida state agency seeks to intervene

Updated 8:57 ET
Feb. 23, 2005

CLEARWATER, Fla. (BP)–Terri Schiavo’s supporters won another round in court Wednesday when Florida Judge George W. Greer extended a stay on an earlier order until Friday at 5 p.m. ET, preventing Michael Schiavo from having health care workers remove a feeding and hydration tube through which Terri is fed twice a day.

In another surprising move just before the hearing, the Florida Department of Children & Families delivered Greer a petition requesting a hearing to divulge what a DCF attorney told Greer is contained in a sealed report.

Kelly McKibben, who identified herself to reporters as chief legal counsel for the DCF, got Greer’s attention at the end of the hearing.

Though Greer denied McKibben the opportunity to speak, she indicated she only wished to let him know that the petition had requested a hearing. Greer told her that any hearing should be scheduled through his office.

George Felos, attorney for Michael Schiavo – Terri Schiavo’s husband — objected to McKibben’s presence and told the court the petition “reeks of intervention of politics in this case.”

Later he told the Florida Baptist Witness there have been “scores” of complaints made to the DCF on behalf of Terri Schiavo and that none of them had any merit.

At the hearing David Gibbs III, an attorney representing Terri’s parents, Bob and Mary Schindler, stood and said he objected to the derisive tone Felos had used about government officials doing their job — and received a round of applause from Terri’s supporters in the courtroom.

Greer threatened to clear the courtroom if things didn’t quiet down.

Michael Schiavo has continued to say that he will have Terri’s feeding tube removed once Greer’s stay is lifted. He has maintained that Terri would not wish to continue to live in her present condition. However, no written request from Terri Schiavo exists. Michael Schiavo lives with his longtime girlfriend, with whom he has had two children.

Greer will rule by Friday on the request to extend the stay, which Gibbs wants to see left in place until all motions and appeals are considered. A new motion filed Wednesday was included in the request — a motion that asks Judge Greer to consider medical advances and technology when deciding if more testing is appropriate in her case.

The family wants more time for the court to consider other arguments — and in the meantime Gibbs made clear that Michael Schiavo’s and Felos’ statements to the press about pulling her tube arbitrarily on the expiration of a stay do not give them time to say goodbye or to receive last rites as a Roman Catholic.

“It is bad policy to force [the Schindlers] to live with that uncertainty,” Gibbs told Greer, asking also that the order Greer fashions by Friday will clarify whether Michael Schiavo should have to seek again permission from the judge for a date and time to begin the starvation process in the event that all stays expire.

Telling attorneys he would like to have delivered an order by the time the current stay expired at 5 p.m. ET Wednesday, Greer said it would be impossible to consider what had been presented and meet the deadline.

“The stay is extended by 48 hours, by which time the court will have some order fashioned on Mr. Gibbs’ motion for emergency stay,” Greer said in court.

Told of the news, Schiavo’s supporters — gathered outside her hospice — shouted, “Praise God, praise the Lord,” WFLA-AM in Tampa reported.

Terry Schiavo is an otherwise healthy 41-year-old woman today. In 1990, she was found unconscious in her home, having suffered brain damage after her heart stopped. In recent years her legal husband and her parents have been in a battle over whether she would wish to live.

Earlier in the day Florida Gov. Jeb Bush said his office was looking for ways to help. Speaking at a news conference Wednesday, Bush said that his office was examining all its options.

“I can assure you, I will do whatever I can within the means, within the laws, of our state to protect this woman’s life,” Bush said, according to the Associated Press. “I won’t go beyond that.”

Bush said he has received thousands of telephone calls and e-mails from those wanting him to intervene.

“People with deep faith and big hearts are concerned, as I am about the circumstance that Ms. Schiavo is in,” Bush said, according to the AP. “I want them to know I will do what I can, but there are limits to what any particular person — irrespective of the title they currently hold — can do.”
— With reporting by Michael Foust

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  • Joni B. Hannigan