The Last Hours Of Tookie

Stanley “Tookie” Williams has run out of options for avoiding his long-delayed execution, having lost both his bid for clemency and his final appeal to the US Supreme Court this evening. Retiring Justice Sandra Day O’Connor likely got the call, as the 9th Circuit comes under her jurisdiction, which might cool the ardor for her from the Judiciary Committee Democrats at the Alito hearings next month, but really means nothing much at all. Since no one had any significant new arguments to present on Williams’ behalf — supposedly one witness surfaced after over a quarter-century that might have had something to say about one of the four murders that put him on Death Row — the only hope Tookie had was clemency, and the Governator terminated that possibility earlier in the day:

Schwarzenegger said he was unconvinced that Williams had had a change of heart, and he was unswayed by pleas from Hollywood stars and capital punishment foes who said the inmate had made amends by writing children’s books about the dangers of gangs.
“Is Williams’ redemption complete and sincere, or is it just a hollow promise?” Schwarzenegger wrote less than 12 hours before the execution. “Without an apology and atonement for these senseless and brutal killings, there can be no redemption.”
He added: “The facts do not justify overturning the jury’s verdict or the decisions of the courts in this case.”

Again, I oppose the death penalty, primarily on two grounds: religious and practicality. I don’t think the state should take a life unless the person represents a present threat to the safety and security of the public, or a threat to the national security of the US or our allies. I also don’t think that the death penalty saves us any money, and needlessly clogs our appellate courts with frivolous motions and delaying tactics. When we have the person locked up, he should stay locked up — and I mean locked up for good, and none of the Club Fed treatment, either. Three hots and a cot, and anything else depends on how well the prisoner behaves. That to me settles the entire case in a relatively expeditious manner without having twenty years of legal motions keeping the case alive.
So why am I not up in arms about Tookie? As I wrote earlier, the people of California decided that they do want the death penalty. It has withstood challenges from political opponents because it has a bipartisan appeal to Californians, with some estimates as high as 70%. One day, perhaps, they will change their mind and commute the sentences of people like Williams to LWOP. Until then, the people deserve to get the justice they’ve chosen.
More than that, however, I’m disgusted by the actions of the celebro-activists that continually degrade the anti-execution cause by attempting to transform murderous thugs like Tookie Williams into misunderstood geniuses who deserve special consideration after murdering people in cold blood. Tookie executed his victims brutally and without a hint of compassion. To this day, he has not shown any remorse for the crimes which got him on Death Row. Instead of remembering the victims, the Hollywood moral midgetry has once again decided that the criminal is their hero — and it appalls me even though I disagree with his execution.
Tookie Williams spent his life victimizing his community, creating criminal gangs that would kill thousands in turf wars, and brutalizing the defenseless, taking at least four lives by his own hand that could have contributed meaningfully and positively to the community. For that track record, he deserves to spend the rest of his life in a small cell contemplating how he wasted his own life and others. Perhaps he might truly repent at some point, although he obviously hasn’t now. However, for that list of crimes, the only redemption can be found in the next life, not here — and certainly co-authoring a few “Just Say No To Gangs” kids’ books weighs pretty lightly against the maelstrom of destruction for which Tookie is responsible.
If the celebrities want to do something about the death penalty, I’d suggest trying to convince Californians that LWOP means no release, ever, under any circumstances except innocence. They could start by ending their peculiar practice of promoting the murderers as heroes and ignoring their victims. Once the public no longer has to listen to ridiculous arguments about the brilliance and courage of people who shoot helpless victims in the back and can focus on the issues of the death penalty itself, then perhaps we can convince people that we can live without executions and all the lunacy they entail.
UPDATE: Baldilocks has a must-read post on this from the Ground Zero Tookie helped to create:

Leaving aside those who oppose the death penalty for moral/religious reasons, few of you have seemed motivated to move into my South Central LA neighborhood to see what “Tookie” and his Crip co-founder Raymond Lee Washington (who’s burning in Hell right now) have wrought for the last thirty-odd years. And I know that you won’t be choosing to live here anytime soon. That’s understandable; however, don’t tell me that we should coddle these TERRORISTS like “Tookie” and those he created if you don’t have to put up with them. (Okay, you can tell me, but you can expect a barely polite response and that’s if I’m feeling generous.)
Secondly—and this is especially for people like Jeremy: black people are thinking, functioning humans who, when adult and without some actual mental deficiency that they can’t control, are just as responsible for their actions as are members of any other race of people. We’re not murderers by nature (that is, any more than any other set of humans are). Therefore, we don’t need a separate, lower standard of behavior in any area, whether it’s education, employment or criminal justice.
When black people do well, they deserve recognition; when they do wrong, they deserve the consequences—no more or no less than any other.

Read the rest; the target of her ire is a 19-year-old clueless commenter, but it might just as well be the celebrities that have elevated Tookie to martyr status. Also check out the Anchoress, whose angst at her indecision on the death penalty results in some fine introspection.

Celebrity Death Row Spotlights

It doesn’t come up often at CQ, but most long-term readers know that I do not support the death penalty. I respect the enactment of it by the legislatures and feel that the penalties should not be subject to excessive legal and extralegal machinations, however, until such time as the people finally decide to get rid of executions altogether. Up to now, I’ve left the Tookie Williams controversy to those with more passion about carrying out his sentence, but Eugene Robinson wrote an excellent column for today’s Washington Post that sums up my feelings on the subject. Titled “No Special Break For Tookie”, death-penalty opponent Robinson lashes out at the celebritization of a thug and murderer by entertainment elite:

Big-time Hollywood stars, including Jamie Foxx, Snoop Dogg and Danny Glover, are leading a high-profile campaign to persuade another big-time Hollywood star, Arnold Schwarzenegger, to save the life of a convicted murderer on California’s death row named Stanley Tookie Williams. Sorry, but I can’t join the glitterati in showing the love.
Williams’s case is about the power of redemption, his supporters say, but I think it’s more about the power of celebrity. The state shouldn’t execute Williams, but only because the state shouldn’t execute anybody — the death penalty is a barbaric anachronism that should have been eliminated long ago, as far as I’m concerned. But it can’t be right to save Williams just because he’s a famous desperado (or former desperado) with famous friends, and then blithely go back to snuffing out the lives of other criminals who lack his talent for public relations. …
He was convicted of the 1979 murders of four people in two separate robberies — convenience store worker Albert Owens, 26; and motel owners Yen-I Yang, 76; Tsai-Shai Yang, 63; and their daughter Yee-Chen Lin, 43. Williams has been on death row since 1981; that he has consistently maintained his innocence of all four killings hardly makes him unique. There’s no dramatic new DNA evidence or anything like that to cast doubt on his guilt.
What does make him special, according to his supporters, is that he has been so lavishly repentant about the culture of violence he helped create. … Of course, there are hundreds of other men on death row who repent of their crimes and would appreciate a little executive clemency, but they don’t have movie stars pleading their cases. Oh, and also lacking a publicity machine are the four people Williams was convicted of killing.

Robinson has more faith in real redemption on Death Row than I do, but that’s not the basis of my objection to the death penalty anyway. (I don’t believe that the state should deliberately kill anyone who presents no imminent danger to the internal peace of society, and an LWOP sentence in a properly run institution should guarantee that.) Whether or not Tookie sincerely repents of his crime to me is immaterial. He committed the crime, and four people are dead because of it — four murders in two separate crimes, mind you. He did that knowing that the penalty for that action was death and he did it anyway. The people have the right to set that penalty, and it was properly implemented.
I would hope that at some time, the people of California will reject the death penalty. In the meantime, this selection of the Murderer Du Jour to lionize insults those of us who object to its application. I don’t oppose the death sentence because I think Mumia got framed or that Tookie is the next Mohandas Gandhi, a truly repellent notion. Tookie Williams is exactly where he should be — in a maximum-security facility — and he should die there as well, of old age. He killed four people, four non-celebrities who never did anything to Tookie except stand between him and some cash that didn’t belong to him.
(One other point: does anyone else notice that three of four of Tookie’s victims were Asian shopowners? Angelenos know what that entails for the gang culture of LA. These weren’t just gang-banging murders but hate-crime executions, just the same as the dragging death of James Byrd. I notice Danny Glover and Jamie Foxx aren’t clamoring for those murderers to get clemency from the governor of Texas, so why are they arguing for Tookie?)
I don’t support the death penalty. Unlike the clueless Hollywood celebrities who manage to hijack this issue, I don’t view the condemned as victims and moral guideposts, either. The elevation of Tookie to philosopher disgusts and sickens me, and it undermines the efforts to convince people of the uselessness and overreach of the death penalty.

The Schiavo Finale, Lacking Finality

With the release of the autopsy results for Terri Schiavo, we now know much we didn’t before, and much that we simply couldn’t. Other questions went unanswered, and the coroner even created a new mystery that necessarily will go unsolved:

Although the meticulous postmortem examination could not determine the mental state of the Florida woman, who died March 31 after a judicial and legislative battle over her “right to die,” it did establish the permanence of her physical condition.
Schiavo’s brain damage “was irreversible . . . no amount of treatment or rehabilitation would have reversed” it, said Jon R. Thogmartin, the pathologist in Florida’s sixth judicial district who performed the autopsy and announced his findings at a news conference in Largo, Fla.
Still unknown is what caused Schiavo, 41, to lose consciousness on a winter morning in 1990. Her heart beat ineffectively for nearly an hour, depriving her brain of blood flow and oxygen.
A study of her organs, fluids, bones and cells, as well as voluminous medical records, failed to support strangulation, beatings, a drug overdose, complications of an eating disorder or a rare molecular heart defect. All had been offered as theories over the past 15 years. Thogmartin said the cause will probably never be known.

The most hysterical charges involving Terri’s husband were proven false, including the notion that he had injected Terri with insulin at some point to kill her. Some of the most well-publicized assertions about her activities also were shown to be wishful thinking, such as an ability to eat and drink without the feeding tube and Terri’s following visual cues, which she seemingly did in the video released by her family. With her vision center destroyed, she had cortical blindness. In the opinion of the coroner after examining the brain, Terri’s condition would never have improved.
However, other issues remain unresolved. An autopsy cannot determine the existence of PVS, as the coroner went out of his way to remind everyone. Dr. Thogmartin’s careful analysis could find no evidence that Terri had been abused, relying on contemporaneous medical records as well as his autopsy, but could determine no cause for her collapse. That’s unfortunate, as the lack of finality on that point will mean that speculation will endure forever.
What we have left are the issues that started the debate in the first place. Unlike today’s New York Times editorial’s assertion on the subject, this was not a “right to die” case. Terri had never requested to die, not with any transparency or formality. All we had for witnesses on her state of mind was a husband who waited until after he had won a substantial lawsuit to recall a conversation in which Terri made an offhand comment about not wanting to live on a respirator, and two of his relatives who corroborated him. The husband had a conflict of interest in the matter, having started a new relationship with another woman and fathering two children. On the other side, Terri’s parents and siblings were willing to take over her medical care and the responsibility for its costs.
Amd most of all, as the coroner affirmed yesterday, Terri was not dying.
Despite all of this, Florida decided that it would deliberately kill Terri on the basis of her husband’s wishes, without any living will or formal indication of her state of mind. As Rick Santorum said yesterday, such a ruling should have been allowed to receive a de novo hearing in federal court for a review, just as any death-penalty case would get. Without that, essentially Terri’s fate rested on two men, Michael Schiavo and Judge George Greer, who refused to release the case to another court at any point in order to get a new hearing on the merits in front of another judge. And when the state decides to kill someone who isn’t dying on their own — as opposed to stopping artificial breathing/cardiac support for those who lack any ability to survive without it — it should have more substantial oversight before doing so, and it should have more to rely on than an estranged husband’s belated recollection of a superficial, general conversation as its basis.

The Inhumanity Of Bureaucrats

This story has already started flying around the blogosphere, probably because people will have a hard time believing it to be true. However, the Associated Press reports that officials at a Columbus high school tried to keep a father from calling the police after students sexually assaulted his sixteen-year-old developmentally disabled daughter:

A 16-year-old disabled girl was punched and forced to engage in videotaped sexual acts with several boys in a high school auditorium as dozens of students watched, according to witnesses. …
School officials found the girl bleeding from the mouth. An assistant principal cautioned the girl’s father against calling 911 to avoid media attention, the statements said. The girl’s father called police.
Her father said the girl is developmentally disabled. A special education teacher said the teen has a severe speech impediment.

So let’s just get this straight. An at-risk young girl gets physically assaulted and then forced to perform oral sex on at least two boys, while dozens of students watched and some even filmed the acts. Instead of locking the school down and getting the police out right away to arrest the perverts who committed this vile act, the first instinct of the school administration was concern for their own convenience? The father obviously has more sense and more humanity than the ghouls who run Mifflin High School.
Or rather, the ghouls who ran the school. The principal has been fired, but the assistant principals — apparently including the one who first tried to convince the father to cover up his daughter’s rape — will get reassigned to supervise other students. That should give Columbus-area parents a warm and comfortable feeling about the kind of care their children will receive from these bloodless bureaucrats.

One Final Piece Of Cruelty

USA Today reports that the autopsy on Terri Schiavo has been completed, and her remains have been released to her husband, as ordered by the Florida courts long ago. This gives Michael Schiavo an opportunity to exact one more bit of cruel revenge against Terri’s parents:

The autopsy of Terri Schiavo has been completed, and the body is ready for release to her husband, who plans to cremate her remains and bury the ashes without telling his in-laws when or where. …
The Schindlers have scheduled a funeral Mass for Tuesday in Gulfport. The Mass will be preceded by a gathering for people to express their condolences.
Michael Schiavo’s family has said he plans to take the cremated remains to Pennsylvania, where Terri Schiavo grew up, but her parents and siblings want to bury her body in Florida so they can visit her grave.

I can understand the family disagreement over where and how the dead are interred; those happen all the time. But for those who continually argued that Michael had Terri’s wishes in mind all along, please explain to me how Terri would wish that her parents would never be able to visit her grave, would never know where to place flowers in remembrance, would never have a place to gather and mourn her passing. I can’t imagine anyone wishing that for their funeral arrangements. Such actions reveal an undeniable selfishness and cruelty that belies his supposed devotion to Terri’s wishes.
The results of the autopsy will not be released for several weeks, and may or may not answer the nagging questions surrounding the Schiavo case. One way or the other, I’ll report the findings when they’re released.

11th Circuit To Hear Schindlers’ Appeal On 13th Day

After watching Terri Schiavo struggle to stay alive for thirteen days without food and water, the Eleventh Circuit appellate court has finally decided that she may have some rights to due process after all. The court agreed to hear the Schindlers’ appeal to reinstate her feeding tube in a dramatic thirteenth-hour development:

A federal appeals court early Wednesday agreed to consider a petition by Terri Schiavo’s parents for a new hearing on whether to reconnect their severely brain-damaged daughter’s feeding tube.
The 11th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals ruled without comment on Schiavo’s 12th day without nourishment. Last week, the same court twice ruled against Schiavo’s parents, Bob and Mary Schindler, who are trying to keep her alive. …
[T]he court will consider the request for a new hearing, rather than whether previous Florida court rulings have met legal standards under state law, which is what federal courts have done in the case until now.

I presume the basis of this appeal pertains to the emergency law passed by Congress demanding a de novo approach to the case in federal court, a law that Judge Whittemore completely disregarded in his action. The appellate court should have taken this up the last time it heard this case, but took the same approach as Whittemore did — to insist on Judge Greer’s finding of fact in defiance of Congress’ clear intent.
Accepting the appeal at this point is certainly a welcome development, but it also comes late in the day for Terri. They may order her rehydration, but without a doubt even if that started this hour, they’ve damaged her by their incomprehensible inaction and defiance of Congress. They allowed a non-terminal woman to suffer severe neglect with the intention of killing her based on the recollection of off-hand comments made years earlier to her estranged husband and two of his relatives.
Let’s hope they get it right this time, and quickly.
UPDATE: John Hawkins has a FAQ on the Schiavo case which people should read.
UPDATE II: The Eleventh Circuit has turned down the Schindlers’ appeal en banc:

A U.S. appeals court on Wednesday rejected a last-minute request from the parents of brain-damaged Florida woman Terri Schiavo for a rehearing on a petition to reconnect their dying daughter’s feeding tube.
A three-judge panel at the 11th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in Atlanta had last week rejected an appeal by parents Bob and Mary Schindler against a Florida court ruling denying them an order to have feeding resumed.
The court on Wednesday denied a request by the parents for the full court of 12 judges to review that ruling, the court said.

So apparently the Schindlers requested the en banc hearing, which was approved for submittal, only for the purposes of having the entire 11th Circuit reject the request on its merits. One wonders why the court accepted the submittal at all.

Congress To Debate Life And Death

After the passions have cooled a bit, Congress intends on taking up the central issues that surrounded the Terri Schiavo case to determine whether federal action is needed to protect the rights of the disabled under guardianship regarding so-called “end of life issues”. The New York Times report makes clear that partisanship does not appear to be a problem, as both parties have called for hearings to make sure people like Terri have better protection in the future:

On Sunday, lawmakers of both parties agreed that Congress has a role to play in such cases and should contemplate legislation that would give added legal recourse to patients like Ms. Schiavo. While it is difficult to predict whether such a measure could pass, the Schiavo case has clearly pushed thorny questions about end-of-life care to the fore on Capitol Hill, as well as in state legislatures around the nation.
The Republican-controlled House already passed a bill that would allow the federal courts to review cases like Ms. Schiavo’s, in which the patient has left no written instructions, the family is at odds and state courts have ordered a feeding tube to be withdrawn. That bill evolved into one that was narrowly tailored to Ms. Schiavo.
Now some Democrats, prodded by advocates for the disabled, say Congress should consider whether such a law is needed.
“I think we should look into this and very possibly legislate it,” said Representative Barney Frank, Democrat of Massachusetts, who opposed Congressional action in the Schiavo case. Mr. Frank was speaking on Sunday on the ABC News program “This Week With George Stephanopoulos.” Mr. Frank added: “I think Congress needs to do more. Because I’ve spoken with a lot of disability groups who are concerned that, even where a choice is made to terminate life, it might be coerced by circumstances.”

While I disagree with the NYT’s analysis of this as an “end of life” issue — Terri’s life only became endangered when Judge George Greer ordered her death by dehydration — I think that the developments in Congress provide some hope that we can avoid a repeat of this situation. We seem to have moved from a presumption of life to a presumption of whatever one’s spouse or guardian wants, regardless of any conflict of interest, and that rightly worries advocates for the disabled under guardianship. Most disabled people who require guardians cannot speak for themselves, and absent written instructions on their wishes for care, the decision to kill them when they suffer no terminal disease — and especially when other family members want to care for them, as in Terri’s case — should receive the strongest kind of skepticism.
Mark Steyn puts it brilliantly, as always, in his column today, titled “No Compelling Reason To Kill Terri Schiavo”:

I’m neither a Floridian nor a lawyer, and, for all I know, it may be legal under Florida law for the state to order her to be starved to death. But it is still wrong.
This is not a criminal, not a murderer, not a person whose life should be in the gift of the state. So I find it repulsive, and indeed decadent, to have her continued existence framed in terms of ”plaintiffs” and ”petitions” and ”en banc review” and ”de novo” and all the other legalese. Mrs. Schiavo has been in her present condition for 15 years. Whoever she once was, this is who she is now — and, after a decade and a half, there is no compelling reason to kill her. Any legal system with a decent respect for the status quo — something too many American judges are increasingly disdainful of — would recognize that her present life, in all its limitations, is now a well-established fact, and it is the most grotesque judicial overreaching for any court at this late stage to decide enough is enough. It would be one thing had a doctor decided to reach for the morphine and ”put her out of her misery” after a week in her diminished state; after 15 years, for the courts to treat her like a Death Row killer who’s exhausted her appeals is simply vile.
There seems to be a genuine dispute about her condition — between those on her husband’s side, who say she has ”no consciousness,” and those on her parents’ side, who say she is capable of basic, childlike reactions. If the latter are correct, ending her life is an act of murder. If the former are correct, what difference does it make? If she feels nothing — if there’s no there there — she has no misery to be put out of. That being so, why not err in favor of the non-irreversible option?

The facts of the Terri Schiavo case are complicated, contradictory, and evoke the strongest of emotions. That is precisely why we need to have a system set up to protect those who cannot speak for themselves. We cannot wait until one of these cases becomes so emergent that we have no recourse but demonstration and raw emotion. Bad decisions inevitably follow from that. Congress should take up this question and others like it, including whether the solutions should come at the federal level at all or rather provide a second line of fact-finding after the state level.
This is how we work within the system to keep injustice from occurring again. Encourage your representative to get involved in reaching a bipartisan consensus on how to protect those who are not dying from being killed through legal machinations.

Hijacking Terri

When does advocacy turn from focusing on an injustice to focusing on yourself? After spending Saturday taking phone calls on our radio show and reading today’s USA Today article about the increasingly chaotic demonstrations outside Terri Schiavo’s hospice, I would say that the time has arrived. Randall Terry, the radical anti-abortion activist who had mostly disappeared from national view over the past few years, has suddenly grabbed the stage in Florida, and his followers have stopped taking their cues from Terri’s family:

Tension mounted outside Woodside Hospice here, where Schiavo was in her 10th day without food or water. Bobby Schindler, Schiavo’s brother, told the protesters they aren’t helping his family by getting arrested.
Karl Henderson, 25, of Denver Bible Church, took issue with Schindler. “We should be able to take her water if she’s dying,” he said.
“You’re not speaking for our family,” Schindler said.

Randall Terry used his platform as a self-styled spokesman for the Schindlers to accuse Jeb Bush of lacking manhood and stirring the natural anger over this injustice to demand that Bush act outside the law to override the courts:

“If Gov. Bush wants to be the man that his brother is, he needs to step up to the plate like President Bush did when the United Nations told him not to go into Iraq,” Randall Terry, a protest organizer, said of the governor. “Be a man. Put politics aside.” …
Among the messages on protest signs Sunday: “Barbara Bush: Are you proud of your sons now?” “Stop the American Holocaust!” “Send in the National Guard!”

It wasn’t just the Schindler’s suppporters who appear to have hijacked the demonstrations, either. The Communists arrived to tell the world that people should die when their brains don’t function, a piece of advice we wished they would have taken a century ago:

After remarks by Randall Terry — an activist against abortion rights who has been acting as a spokesman for Terri Schiavo’s family, the Schindlers — members of a group calling itself the Revolutionary Communist Youth Brigades seized control of the microphones and blasted Terry as a “Christian fascist thug” trying to interfere in “the most intimate affairs of life and death.”
“[Terri Schiavo’s] brain is not functional. It’s not going to recover. Let her die in peace,” pleaded Sunsari Taylor, a member of the group.

OK, folks. This has dissolved into a tragic circus, where the people supposedly supporting the Schindlers won’t listen to them and the Communist Youth Brigades steal microphones to get themselves air time. The emotions have run away with the argument, to the point where conservatives have now started to argue for the executive to outgun the judiciary and impose its will regardless of the law.
It’s time to put the signs down, and start praying for Terri. We need to fix the system, not trash it completely, and we need to stop giving air time to the most radical elements on both sides so we can determine the best way to do so.

Governor Bush Must Uphold The Law

Now that the federal court has ruled against the Schindlers again this morning in their fight to save their daughter from death, Terri’s supporters have renewed their calls for Governor Jeb Bush to step in and do something — some say even if he has to break the law to do it:

The Rev. Patrick Mahoney — a Christian Defense Coalition representative who is frequently on hand across the country for controversial matters of concern to religious conservatives — called for Gov. Bush to send Florida law enforcement officers to “come in and take Terri.”
“A citizen of your state is being brutally murdered,” he said. “You need to intervene.”
Mahoney was organizing the prayer vigil Friday. “We are here on Good Friday to ask Gov. Jeb Bush to intervene to save the life of Terri Schiavo,” he said in a statement. “The governor has it within his power to rescue Terri. Her life is in the governor’s hand.”

I have argued repeatedly for Congress, the Florida legislature, and the two Bush brothers to do all they can do to save Terri’s life. As I have expressed here before, I find the forced death by dehydration of a disabled, non-terminal patient at the insistence of an estranged spouse with no support except for the hearsay of a couple of offhand comments heard by the husband and his relatives abhorrent. It smacks of euthanasia and sets a terrible precedent, apart from the inhumanity of forcing Terri’s family to watch her die when they’ve repeatedly requested to be allowed to care for her. It’s sadistic, if not to Terri, then to those who love her.
But we have to draw a line here, and that line is the law.
The governor and the President have done all that they can do within the law. They cannot execute any action not authorized by current law or by action of the legislative branch. Neither can they use the law-enforcement resources at their command to simply overrule a judge’s decision. Governor Bush swore an oath to uphold and enforce the law, even those with which he disagrees, and he has done his best to create law to allow him to act in this circumstance. He was not successful.
In our haste to save an innocent life, we cannot demand that our executives turn into dictators for just a few moments. Dictatorships don’t work that way, and neither do democracies. Imagine what would happen if Jeb Bush took Reverend Mahoney’s advice. Terri’s life might be saved — for a week or two. Snatching Terri illegally from the hospice and holding her somewhere in violation of a court order would result in Bush’s impeachment, and likely federal intervention in Florida. The state police probably would refuse the illegal order anyway. If Bush did take Terri, she would be right back to where she was last Friday as soon as the rule of law returned to Florida — which would mean she would once again start the process of dehydration as soon as that happened.
We cannot allow our passions for Terri and the Schindlers to overload our respect for the law which protects us from an overpowerful executive branch. Reverend Mahoney calls for little less than an armed coup d’etat in Florida, one in which Bush would make both the legislature and the judiciary completely irrelevant by the use of force. I cannot imagine a more dangerous and terrible outcome from this tragedy than that, especially since in the end it will have only the effect of momentarily delaying Terri’s torturous death.
It’s time to cool the passions and start praying for mercy.

All Over But The Dying

The Supreme Court has refused to hear the appeal of the Schindlers to get food and water restored to Terri Schiavo:

The Supreme Court on Thursday refused to order Terri Schiavo’s feeding tube reinserted, rejecting a desperate appeal by her parents to keep their severely brain-damaged daughter alive.
The decision, announced in a terse one-page order, marked the end of a dramatic and disheartening four-day dash through the federal court system by Bob and Mary Schindler.
Justices did not explain their decision, which was at least the fifth time they have declined to get involved in the Schiavo case.

I’m not surprised by this action. I always felt that the only hope Terri had of getting relief was at the district court level. Once Judge Whittemore ignored Congress’ express desire for a de novo retrial, I knew the effort was doomed.
I’ll post more later. I hear that Jeb Bush wants to take physical custody of Terri, a move for which I have serious misgivings, but I don’t really have any reasoned arguments for it yet. I need more time to absorb this.
UPDATE: Judge George Greer quashed Bush’s motion for a custody transfer this afternoon:

A state judge refused Thursday to hear Gov. Jeb Bush’s arguments to take custody of Terri Schiavo, leaving the brain-damaged woman’s parents with only the slimmest hopes in their fight to keep her alive.
Bush’s request cited new allegations of neglect and challenges the diagnoses that Schiavo is in a persistent vegetative state, but Pinellas Circuit Judge George Greer wasn’t convinced.

Not much surprise there, either, since Greer has been the only finder of fact throughout this entire case. However, I doubt that any other Florida court would have granted this particular motion, certainly not as injunctive relief. Before taking custody of a disabled person under any conditions, the state would have to show a high threshold of proof that state confiscation of a person and the termination of custody rights were warranted. That means a trial, not just a hearing; otherwise, it’s a violation of habeas corpus, strictly speaking. Any lower threshold would enable the state (especially the executive) far too much leeway to confine people while the defendants suffered under the burden of proof.
I think this has been part of my misgiving about Jeb Bush’s notion of protective custody from the beginning, but also I think I have a deeply-rooted fear of an overpowerful executive regardless. The courts have appellate courts above them, although certainly in this case they’ve mostly taken the cowardly way out and refused to look at the facts as well as the procedures. Legislatures answer directly to voters and in most cases could face recalls if they abuse their power. The same might be true of executives, but notwithstanding California’s example, such a choke on power has proven exceedingly difficult to engineer. The executives have the agencies of law enforcement under their command, with their near-monopoly on legal lethal force. An out-of-control executive is a far greater danger than any of the other branches in the long run.
I’m still conflicted on it. However, practically speaking, it won’t happen anyway. We’ve sentenced a woman to die in a manner which we wouldn’t dream of ordering for a dangerous animal or a convicted terrorist, and now we have to watch as the people who supposedly should be protecting her force her to die horribly. I’m praying for Terri and the Schindlers, but I think that’s all that’s left.