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CNN LARRY KING LIVE

Interview With Mary, Robert Schindler

Aired September 27, 2004 - 21:00   ET

THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.


LARRY KING, HOST: Tonight, exclusive. In their first live interview together since the Florida Supreme Court struck down the law keeping their brain-damaged daughter alive, Terri Schiavo's parents, Mary and Robert Schindler, speak out, on their life and death battle with their son-in-law over the fate of their own flesh and blood. An intense, emotional hour. Mary and Robert Schindler, exclusive, and next on LARRY KING LIVE.
Get you up to date -- joining us, by the way, is David Gibbs. He's also based in St. Petersburg, the attorney for the Schindlers. All three flew out to be with us in Los Angeles.

Last week, the Florida Supreme Court unanimously, unanimously struck down the state law that empowered Governor Jeb Bush to order Terri Schiavo's feeding tube reinserted. Terri's feeding tube had been removed at the behest of her husband. The GOP-controlled Florida legislature then met in emergency session, passed a special law, and it was that law that the Florida Supreme Court overturned.

Terri Schiavo, then age 26, collapsed at home on February 25, 14 years ago, 1990, when her heart temporarily stopped beating. A temporary cut-off of oxygen to her brain left her brain damaged. She is now 40 years old, and currently being cared for in a hospice.

On Thursday, there will be a hearing on the Schindlers' motion challenging Michael's guardianship of Terri, and seeking to uphold her religious liberty rights. By the way, Michael was with us on this program October 27 of last year, and on some of the breaks you'll see certain clips.

Where is the case right now, David?

DAVID GIBBS, SCHINDLERS' ATTORNEY: Thursday, we're going to go before the judge, Larry, and we're going to ask for Terri's constitutional, First Amendment rights to be protected. Very interestingly, after the governor and the legislature passed what became known as Terri's Law, the pope addressed this issue, speaking for Roman Catholics nationwide, and said that withholding of food and water is not an extraordinary medical act, and as good, practicing Catholic it would be imperative that that be given as a natural course of taking care of people. We're going to be before the court on Thursday asking the judge to uphold not just Terri's religious liberty rights, but really the religious liberty rights of all people.

KING: So this is a change from the law that they struck down? GIBBS: A huge change. The law they struck down was where the governor stepped in and he said through the legislature, I will be Terri's guardian. And what the Florida Supreme Court said is, no, we believe the courts have already looked at this, and on separation of powers grounds struck they struck down Terri's Law.

KING: So you are now going this other route.

GIBBS: Yes, sir.

KING: How did you hear, Robert, about the Supreme Court's decision? Where were you?

ROBERT SCHINDLER, TERRI SCHIAVO'S FATHER: I was home, and Mary was working at the time. And our attorney -- another attorney called me and advised me.

KING: Were you shocked?

R. SCHINDLER: Well, I was not shocked. And I had a somewhat of a sick feeling in my stomach. I made the analogy would be like Barry Bonds hitting a 500-foot home run in dead center field, and the umpire calling it a foul ball. So that's how I felt.

KING: Do you think you have a good chance on Thursday with this new idea, new motion?

R. SCHINDLER: I would hope so. I think we have very professional attorneys, and they're putting a lot of time and effort into this.

KING: Mary, why do you want to keep Terri alive?

MARY SCHINDLER, MOTHER OF TERRI SCHIAVO: Why do I want to keep Terri alive?

KING: In the condition, you know, we've seen her in, which she's been in for all these years?

M. SCHINDLER: But Terri is not in the condition that they portray her. Terri is a -- she's a happy, healthy -- I mean, she's healthy. She's brain damaged, but she's healthy.

KING: She doesn't communicate, does she?

M. SCHINDLER: Yes, she does.

KING: How?

M. SCHINDLER: She tries very hard to talk to me. She tries. There's a therapist, a speech therapist in Chicago that said that Terri, her tapes of Terri that we took tapes, she's talking, but she just needs some help with her vocal chords to get them, you know, where she can form words.

KING: If all that's true, David, why not, if she can -- trying to form words, if she appears happy, what's the problem?

GIBBS: What the problem is in this case is, Terri's husband, Michael, is her guardian. And he has gone and gotten doctors to say that she's in this persistent vegetative state, which in they're opinion means that therapy is not going to help her. She's not brain dead, Larry. It's very important to understand that distinction. A lot of people get the idea that she's on a respirator, a ventilator. She's being kept alive by machines.

KING: She's not.

GIBBS: Absolutely not. She's a totally...

KING: With brain dead, you'd probably favor letting someone go.

GIBBS: You could certainly argue that that would be appropriate, because the machines are just keeping her alive. In this case, Terri's alive. She's actually very spunky. She has kept herself alive when feeding tubes and others have been removed.

And what has to happen is she cannot swallow. And so she needs food and water assistance. And what the guardian is pushing for is to remove that food and water and have her starve to death.

KING: And you're saying that's denying her constitutional rights, even though she can't say it for herself?

GIBBS: Absolutely. We're stepping into Terri's shoes and saying that that's taking away her rights to freedom of religion, as well as life.

KING: If the situation is as you say it is, Robert, why is Michael opposed?

R. SCHINDLER: That's a good question. We can't understand that.

KING: Were you ever close, you and Michael?

R. SCHINDLER: Initially, when this happened to Terri, Mary and Michael were joined at the hip. And everything seemed to be going proper until the malpractice medical...

KING: He filed a malpractice suit?

R. SCHINDLER: He filed for $20 million, and he was awarded a million/four, plus another $250,000 in another settlement. And that money was going to be for Terri's rehabilitation.

KING: You weren't opposed to the suit then, Mary?

M. SCHINDLER: No. No. Because...

KING: You feel that wrong things were done to Terri in the hospital, wherever it happened, in the hospital, I guess, right?

M. SCHINDLER: Wrong things were done? KING: You think he had a rightful suit?

M. SCHINDLER: Absolutely, absolutely, he had a rightful suit. But after the money came in, then he wouldn't do anything.

KING: And what...

M. SCHINDLER: She hasn't had any therapy in over 12 years.

KING: What reason did Michael give you for changing his mind?

R. SCHINDLER: All he told me, I'm her husband, I make all decisions.

KING: That's all he said?

R. SCHINDLER: That was it.

M. SCHINDLER: That was that.

KING: What did he say to you, you were joined at the hip?

M. SCHINDLER: We were.

KING: What did he say to you?

M. SCHINDLER: He said, this is my wife, I will make the decisions, and you have nothing to say about it.

KING: Do you see some hidden motive on Michael's part? Is there a will? Is there...

R. SCHINDLER: Well, at one time, there was a tremendous amount of money he would have inherited had she died. But that's since been spent on the attorneys who are pursuing her death.

KING: So what's his point now?

R. SCHINDLER: It's a good question.

M. SCHINDLER: We don't know.

R. SCHINDLER: The most logical thing, we were just discussing it, that we've had 8-year-old children who have found out about Terri's case and they're asking the same question. Why would this man not, you know, give Terri back to her parents? And that's...

KING: In other words, if he wanted to live, go on with his life.

M. SCHINDLER: He should...

KING: Perfectly understandably, he wanted to get divorced...

M. SCHINDLER: Right.

KING: ... wanted to remarry. M. SCHINDLER: Yes.

KING: Why not let her...

M. SCHINDLER: He has two children. That's right. I want her. I'm her mother. I love her. Even if, you know, I would love to give her therapy, but if I couldn't, she's just -- I'll take her home with me now and take care of her for the rest of my life.

KING: David, if they're willing to do this and Michael's not in this for any -- there's no more money to get, right?

GIBBS: That's correct. All the money's gone.

KING: All the money's gone. Excuse me. So what on Earth could be his motive? He could leave, couldn't he?

GIBBS: That's the question everybody is asking.

KING: Anybody would grant him a divorce in this situation he's in?

GIBBS: He could relinquish his guardianship and say, I'm not in charge of Terri anymore. He could file for divorce. We need to understand, he has a girlfriend, he has two children. He's moved on years ago with his life. And the Schindlers are saying, as mom and dad, we don't want anything except our daughter. And we want to take care of her. They had committed that they would do anything, if they could just take their daughter home, they'll personally pay for that. And why Michael won't let them do that, it's unimaginable. Young children don't understand why he won't do that.

KING: We'll take a break. We'll be back with more. We'll be including your calls. This is the first live appearance together of the Schindlers since the decision of the Florida Supreme Court. David Gibbs, their attorney, is with them.

Thursday night is the first of the presidential debates. We will follow it at 8:00 Pacific time, 11:00 Eastern time. And among our panelists will be two people who debated both of the participants, former Governor William Weld of Massachusetts who had debates with John Kerry; former Governor Ann Richards of Texas, who had debates with George Bush. So both will be on Thursday night to look at people they've debated. It's Thursday night, 11:00 Eastern. We'll be right back.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

M. SCHINDLER: Put your head back. Is that OK? Huh? How you feel? How do you feel? How do you feel? How do you feel? Huh? What? That's my girl.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

MICHAEL SCHIAVO, TERRI SCHIAVO'S HUSBAND: Her father and mother came into the room and closed the door. And they asked the big question, how much money am I going to get? I told him he wasn't going to get any money.

KING: Out of the malpractice...

SCHIAVO: Out of the malpractice suit. Then he argued with me a little while and then he pointed at Terri in her wheelchair and he says, "how much am I going to get from her money?" And I said, "you have to go talk to the courts about that."

KING: She got money, too?

SCHIAVO: Yes, Terri got money. From there it blew up, he wanted to go out in the hall and have a fistfight. It was crazy. It was a little crazy.

KING: Did it shock you?

SCHIAVO: No. Because he always wanted the money.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

KING: Robert? Pretty damning stuff.

R. SCHINDLER: I know it is. It's kind of a smoke screen, the argument that I had with Mr. Schiavo was for Terri's rehabilitation. Prior to when the malpractice money came in we had a neurologist come in and state that Terri could improve if she received some progressive therapy. He promised before the malpractice trial that he would see to that, see that would happen. When the money came in and he received it, I think it was in January, he confined Terri to a nursing home, he did not give her the advanced therapy. I had been literally pleading with him, please.

KING: So that's what the argument was?

R. SCHINDLER: That's what it was about.

KING: You weren't making money?

R. SCHINDLER: No. It was about using...

M. SCHINDLER: We was supposed to go to Shands Hospital. He promised us.

KING: Shands in Jacksonville?

M. SCHINDLER: Shands Hospital in Gainesville. That's where Terri would go after he got the malpractice money. That's what the argument was about. That's what Bob asked him for. Michael, please...

KING: So he was lying? M. SCHINDLER: Michael, please, are we going to Gainesville?

KING: Where is she right now?

M. SCHINDLER: In a hospice. In Clearwater, Florida.

KING: With cancer patients and the like.

R. SCHINDLER: Everyone by her, they're all dying.

KING: She's in a room?

M. SCHINDLER: A four by four little room.

KING: Does she go out?

M. SCHINDLER: Never. She's not allowed.

KING: Do you get to see her?

R. SCHINDLER: We do now. There were times when we were prohibited from seeing her.

M. SCHINDLER: Fifty days, we went without seeing her.

R. SCHINDLER: And we were banned from seeing our daughter. My children had been banned from seeing her by the husband.

KING: And all the people working for you, the doctors and the others are doing this gratis?

David, you're working for nothing?

GIBBS: That's correct.

KING: Why?

GIBBS: Because there's big issues involved, Larry. When you look at the rights of a mom and dad to try to protect the life of their own daughter, when you look at religious liberty rights, all people of all faith, I'm a Baptist, the Schindlers are Catholic, people could be Jewish or whatever faith. When we watch the state come in and try to impose their belief on people that violates their religious teaching, that's a huge concern.

And when you look at this, in this country, if you have law, one of the core tenets of the founding fathers was to protect life. If we're going to live in a country that says life is throw away, you can dispose of the people that don't matter anymore, the disabled, you look at people that say economically, these people can't contribute. But I believe there's a God who puts those people in this world for distinct reason, a purpose, a calling, and to let people come in and say some people aren't worth living, that's a battle that we'll fight.

KING: Do you know she's not in pain?

M. SCHINDLER: No. You know.

KING: She could be in pain?

M. SCHINDLER: She's in pain when she gets like the time of the month. I mean, she's not in pain otherwise.

KING: You know that there's no need to give her morphine?

M. SCHINDLER: No.

KING: There's no pain involved in this illness?

R. SCHINDLER: She expresses pain. She'll let you know when she's hurting or...

M. SCHINDLER: They give her Tylenol.

R. SCHINDLER: An example, the...

KING: She gets headaches?

GIBBS: That's correct.

R. SCHINDLER: The caretakers tell us that when they do put her in a chair and they will say, Terri's been in the chair too long, we have to put her back in bed because she lets us know she's been in the chair too long.

KING: Does her husband see her a lot?

R. SCHINDLER: I have no idea.

KING: Do you talk to him at all? You'll see him in court Thursday, right? Will he be in court Thursday?

R. SCHINDLER: Probably not. He sends his lawyers. They would be glad to talk to him but he refuses to speak other than through his legal counsel.

KING: Did you know you had a tough case with the Florida supreme court?

GIBBS: Yes, sir. And please realize, we tried to intervene into that case on behalf of Bob and Mary and we were denied that opportunity and so the governor was defending the law. We were cooperating with his lawyers but we weren't actually in that case. But a lot of legal scholars were concerned that what the legislature did might create constitutional trouble. Now we have real profound gratitude because if it weren't for the legislators, if it weren't for the governor, if it weren't for the hundreds of thousands of Florida citizens who said, you know, Terri is a life worth protecting, Terri's Law would have been passed and we wouldn't have had these opportunities to raise these issues...

KING: The court wasn't saying she shouldn't live, the court was saying the governor had no right to do what he did? GIBBS: That's correct. It was on pure constitutional principles.

KING: And that's what they're there for.

GIBBS: Yes, sir.

KING: Call me Larry.

GIBBS: I will.

KING: So that was the grounds. Do you think you're on solid ground Thursday?

GIBBS: I believe so. Because what the court says if there's any significant change in circumstance that the courts are obligated to look at this situation. When you have someone's faith and the highest elected leader of that religion says it would be inappropriate, it would be wrong, it would be morally obligatory to give food and water to this individual, and when the courts look at that, I think they're going to have to deal with that issue and we're very hopeful.

KING: But this pope has also said it's morally wrong to have capital punishment and states still do that so...

GIBBS: But we're walking behind the First Amendment that says in this country your religious liberty needs to be given the highest possible status. And when someone like Terri can't speak for herself, they have to, in a measure, look into her mind and say how would she respond.

KING: Do you have other children, Bob?

R. SCHINDLER: We have two boys. Terri has a brother that's a year difference, Bobby Junior and Suzanne, who is three years younger.

KING: Are they close?

R. SCHINDLER: Oh, my gosh, yes.

KING: Do they go see her?

M. SCHINDLER: All the time. They're there while we're here.

KING: You were in business in Philadelphia. Is that where Terri grew up? This was her first marriage?

R. SCHINDLER: Yes.

KING: There were no children of that marriage?

R. SCHINDLER: No.

KING: So what's it like for you when you see her?

R. SCHINDLER: I think any father or any parent that has a child that knows that child can be helped and I'm not permitted to do anything to help her, that breaks my heart.

M. SCHINDLER: It's like that night I watched -- I watched Pat Boone's grandson on your show for two nights and I'm sitting at home, thinking that could be my Terri because she could...

KING: He fell through a skylight window and paralyzed and they never thought he'd...

M. SCHINDLER: They had such therapy for him, wonderful therapy and that's what Terri was supposed to get. When that lawsuit was settled, she's supposed to get this intensive therapy.

KING: Do you believe that if that money had been spent on therapy, she would be better today?

M. SCHINDLER: Absolutely.

R. SCHINDLER: It's not us making...

M. SCHINDLER: Right away. If she'd have got help right away...

R. SCHINDLER: She was improving. She was talking. She was saying, no, she was saying stop, she was saying mommy.

KING: We'll take a break and be right back with the Schindler's and David Gibbs, we'll also be including your phone calls on this edition of LARRY KING LIVE. Don't go away.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

R. SCHINDLER: The one eye rolls in on her. Doesn't it? That one eye rolls in on you? Do you remember that? We used to laugh at that.

Used to get mommy all upset when you did that to her?

You take your eye and let it roll to the side.

You remember?

(END VIDEO CLIP)

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

KING: Did she ever speak since 1990?

SCHIAVO: Terri has never has spoke a word.

KING: So, various types of rehab conducted?

SCHIAVO: Right. When I brought her back from California, I put her in a rehab called Mediplex in Bradenton, Florida. They deal only with head injury, spine injury patients. They worked extensively. They had physical therapy, occupational therapy, speech therapy, recreational therapy. They worked extensively with Terri.

KING: Nothing?

SCHIAVO: Nothing. Her mother and father were there and they heard this.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

KING: Is that true, Mary?

M. SCHINDLER: That's true. Absolutely. It's not true what he's saying about nothing. She was improving. I was with him every day. We went to classes to learn how to help Terri. She was saying, no, she was saying stop, she was saying mom.

R. SCHINDLER: It's in her medical records she was improving.

M. SCHINDLER: It's in her medical records at Mediplex.

R. SCHINDLER: That's kind of a...

KING: Did she fall? What happened? Was she injured?

GIBBS: They don't know, Larry, exactly what happened, but there was severe...

KING: Who was with her?

GIBBS: She was home alone with just Michael, and there was a severe deprivation of oxygen from the brain. What caused that deprivation no one knows. But for a period her brain was oxygen starved and that created the damage.

KING: The doctors guessed?

GIBBS: What they talked about was a strange potassium deficiency or other things, but it really is anybody's guess. And the Schindler's have had doctors who offered to review all the records and to go back and really try to recreate what happened on that night to help others and the records have been sealed by Michael.

KING: Is that the way Mary looked before the accident?

M. SCHINDLER: Terri.

R. SCHINDLER: No, that's Terri.

KING: Terri. I mean, Terri.

M. SCHINDLER: Yes. That's the way -- yes.

KING: Let's take a call up Alabama. Hello.

CALLER: Hello. Yes, I lost a son eight years ago in a car accident, and I would just like to -- I know how they feel. But I'd like to know why he doesn't get a divorce and go on with his life and let the parents have their daughter back.

KING: No one knows the answer.

GIBBS: That's everybody's question. I mean, for little children -- my daughter walked up to me and said, daddy, why won't he let the mommy and daddy take care of her.

KING: Now, I must have asked in October, I don't remember, we do a lot of interviews.

What did he say that night? Why does he want to let her die?

R. SCHINDLER: I know what the standard answer is, he's honoring her wishes.

KING: Oh. Based on?

R. SCHINDLER: That Terri.

M. SCHINDLER: What she told him.

R. SCHINDLER: Apparently -- well apparently what he said was back when she was 21-years-old, that she had made an oral end of life declaration. And...

KING: Were you aware of that?

R. SCHINDLER: No. We never were. It was contrary -- totally contrary

KING: Catholic beliefs.

M. SCHINDLER: And to Terri. She would never...

R. SCHINDLER: It wasn't Terri. And all her girlfriends, everybody that knew Terri said, Terri would never do that. But the husband made that claim and then brought his brother and sister-in-law in to corroborate that.

KING: Lake Ariel, Pennsylvania. Hello.

CALLER: Hi, Larry.

KING: Hi.

CALLER: My heart goes out to the Schindler's and to Terri, and I support you 100 percent and support Terri as well. I also wanted to ask the lawyer, are there any cases other than Terri that this has been documented where there was a patient allowed to starve to death like this?

Because I think it's horrendous.

KING: David.

GIBBS: Yes. There are cases where people are allowed to make that choice for themselves, Larry. What happens is they have to have it clearly spelled out in writing ahead of time. They have to leave a living will that says, I want the with holding of food and water. Where it becomes a very big issue, is when there is no written declaration. And in this instance allegedly, Terri might have at one time watching TV, said I don't know if I want to live like that. And to have a court go back in and try to interpret what that means is very, very difficult.

KING: You're asking for guardianship?

M. SCHINDLER: Yes.

KING: Why won't he give it?

GIBBS: All they want is their daughter back. They're not asking for money from him or from anybody, let them take care of their daughter.

M. SCHINDLER: I don't know why.

KING: If. If he said OK, would you let him see her as much as he wanted?

R. SCHINDLER: Of course.

M. SCHINDLER: Sure.

KING: No doubt about it. So, there's no...

R. SCHINDLER: There's no restriction, no.

M. SCHINDLER: (UNINTELLIGIBLE) He can see her when ever he wants.

R. SCHINDLER: All we want from day one is to try and help Terri. That's all our motivation and our (UNINTELLIGIBLE) .

M. SCHINDLER: Love her.

KING: Colorado Springs, hello.

CALLER: Hello. Yes. My question is if we treat animals this way, it's called cruel and inhumane treatment. So, that's my question and my discussion with this whole thing is, -- what I don't understand is there a possibility her husband is wanting to make additional money, maybe a book or movie after the fact?

GIBBS: Could well be. Again, the motivation are unknown to us. But she's absolutely right, if you were to take a dog, you were to take a horse or some livestock, say we're just going to ignore it, we're not going to feed it, we're going to not give it water, we're going to let it die of dehydration...

KING: It would be cruelty to animals.

GIBBS: ... it would be cruelty to animals. You'd be arrested. M. SCHINDLER: They'd go to prison. But yet Terri can be allowed to starve to death. You've never seen anything like it, Larry, in your life, as a mother watching your child starve to death.

R. SCHINDLER: We went through that two times.

M. SCHINDLER: Two times.

KING: When, when they stopped food?

M. SCHINDLER: Both times.

KING: How many days?

M. SCHINDLER: The first time was 60 days. I'm sorry, 60 hours, the second time was seven days. She is a strong girl.

KING: Did she nearly die in seven days?

M. SCHINDLER: Well, yes, she was close it to.

R. SCHINDLER: But they wouldn't let us in the room by ourselves with her. There were police outside of her room, there were police in her room.

M. SCHINDLER: There was Michael's representatives in her room. I didn't have one second alone with her while she was dying.

KING: This really does sound weird, David?

GIBBS: Yes, sir. Absolutely.

R. SCHINDLER: When Mary went to go to Terri people would literally jump. The police would move to stop her.

KING: Fearing she'd do what?

R. SCHINDLER: I have no idea.

(CROSSTALK)

GIBBS: They were fearful somebody might actually try to feed her or keep her alive. I don't know what their fear was, but they were...

R. SCHINDLER: They denied her communion as a Catholic.

KING: They did?

M. SCHINDLER: Yes.

R. SCHINDLER: They would not give her the last rites.

KING: We take a break and be back with more of your phone calls. Don't go away.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP) UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Open yours up. Open your eyes. Terri, open your eyes. There you go. Good. Good job! Good job, young lady! Good job.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

SCHIAVO: This is Terri's wish, and I'm going to follow that wish if it's the last thing I can do for Terri. I love Terri deeply, and I'm going to follow it up for Terri.

KING: How old was she when this happened?

SCHIAVO: Twenty-five.

KING: A 25-year-old said to you, if I die, if I'm in this kind of state -- most 25-year-olds wouldn't think of something like that.

SCHIAVO: It was a comment from watching certain programs. She said -- we were watching some programs, and she said, I don't want to -- I don't want anything artificial like that. I don't want any tubes. Don't let me live like that. I don't want to be a burden to anybody. She's also made comments to other people about different stories.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

KING: We are back with Mary and Robert Schindler. They are Terri Schiavo's parents, and David Gibbs, the attorney for the Schindlers. A new motion will be introduced on Thursday, counteracting -- well, not differing with the Florida Supreme Court, just going another route, dealing with the First Amendment and the recent statements by the pope speaking out for the first time on this issue of feeding. The pope was saying in essence that feeding is a medical issue?

GIBBS: What the pope said is providing food and water is not a medical act. It's not an extraordinary, a life-preserving measure, and that you have to provide food and water as a clearly decent act.

KING: I see. Not a medical act. It is not a medical act?

GIBBS: That's correct.

KING: Charlotte, North Carolina. By the way, I have got bronchitis, and that's some of the reasons you hear -- maybe you hear a cough during the background. I'm hanging tough.

Charlotte -- because that's what we do in this business, right? The show must go on, or as someone once said, why?

Charlotte, North Carolina, hello.

CALLER: Larry.

KING: Yeah.

CALLER: Thank you for taking my call.

KING: Sure.

CALLER: One brief comment, and then my question. In 1991, my father was having an operation, and he became brain dead on the table. And he was put on a trach, and we had to decide eventually if we were going to remove him, which we did.

My situation is very different from Terri's folks, but still, it brings back a lot of memories.

KING: Yeah. What's the question?

CALLER: The question is, I noticed that she opened her eyes -- it was very, very hard for her to do, but she opened her eyes when someone asked her to just a few minutes ago on film. Could they not ask her to blink her eyes, maybe four or five times in succession if she wanted to die, so that she -- her mother says that she can communicate somewhat.

KING: A very good question. David, is there a way to ask her questions?

GIBBS: And the answer at this point is unknown. Until professionals have an opportunity to rehabilitate her, you can't know for sure what a response may or may not mean in terms of four or five blinks, one means yes, one means no. Plus, if somebody says I want to die, that doesn't mean right then you take them out and kill them. I mean, certainly through starvation or dehydration -- sometimes people can have some difficult medical situations, and in love as a family, you pull around them and you help them through those difficult moments. I certainly sympathize with someone that has to deal with someone who is brain dead and kept alive by machines.

KING: Is she fed intravenously?

GIBBS: No.

M. SCHINDLER: No.

GIBBS: It's through a tube, and it goes right into her stomach.

R. SCHINDLER: Yeah, can I elaborate on what she was talking about that?

KING: Sure.

R. SCHINDLER: In November, I guess it would be two years now, I had Terri on a cell phone, talking with a therapist out in Texas, who will, by the way, testify in the court on what happened, and I was sitting there, watching, and I saw Terri, and she was sitting in a chair, literally get out of her chair, where I reached over and I pulled her back in the chair. And I got on the phone, I said, what in the world did you say to this girl? And he said, I said to her that if you don't get up out of your chair, they're going to kill you. And she tried to get out of the chair. And that can be documented.

KING: So the husband's only argument is he's proving a point because she said at age 25 she didn't want to be kept alive artificially.

GIBBS: Watching some program. And Larry, interesting, when she made that comment, if it was made, but he says it was made, that was against Florida law at that time. You could not withhold basic food and water in 1990 when that comment was allegedly made. So what he's asking everyone to believe is that she made a comment "I would want to be killed" even in violation of Florida law. And I really think a 25- year-old isn't thinking about being starved to death and making a casual comment.

KING: Beautiful couple, too. Groton, Connecticut, hello.

CALLER: Yes, hello, Larry, thank you for taking my call.

KING: Hi.

CALLER: I'm a mother of five young children. My second child is 14, and he's multi-handicapped. And doctors at Yale University told us that he would never do anything in his life, take him home and take care of him and love him, he would never do anything.

Well, my son is just -- he's very small. He's undiagnosed, but with great therapy, he's doing phenomenal things. He's non-verbal, but he communicates in other ways. I feel so bad for the Schindlers.

KING: You have a question?

CALLER: Yes, I do. I have a fear that if something happens to Terri and people like her, what will happen to my son. My question is, is anyone aware of any kind of agenda moving the husband to take her life so it will be easier for other children like my son to be disposed of?

KING: David?

GIBBS: Absolutely. There's an agenda.

KING: He's part of a group or a...?

GIBBS: I don't know. I believe there's a movement. They argue in the court that economically Terri is of no value. And if someone can't...

KING: They say that?

GIBBS: Absolutely, that economically, she costs too much to keep her alive, and she can't contribute. And what you have is a very dangerous way of thinking, Larry. It's very similar to what happened over in Nazi Germany, where all of a sudden the government and others began to say who should live, who shouldn't. And you know, America was founded as a nation that said, we're going to protect life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness.

KING: But the parents are willing to absorb the costs?

GIBBS: They're willing to do it personally, at great sacrifice, as well as the brother and sister, Bobby Jr. and Susanne. They said if anything happens to mom and dad, we will personally take care of our sister. That's family.

R. SCHINDLER: We filed affidavits to do that.

KING: I'm trying to figure out the argument.

GIBBS: We have been doing the same thing for all these years.

M. SCHINDLER: A long time.

GIBBS: It makes no sense. Children are asking the question. You're asking it. Everybody wants to know.

KING: What about others -- are the disabled involved in this in any way?

GIBBS: They're very terrified. They've been huge supporters of Terri and the Schindlers.

M. SCHINDLER: A lot of groups.

GIBBS: And they're very concerned, because if the law turns to where those that can't contribute or those that carry disabilities are put in some jeopardy, as this mother testifying about her 14-year-old, what a wonderful thing, with her getting him therapy -- but if somebody else were to step in and say, you know what, that boy, because he can't speak, is a life not worth having, we disagree with that. That's why I'm in this case. Life needs to be protected in this country.

KING: Santa Monica, California, hello.

CALLER: First, I want to say to the Schindlers, the love for your daughter radiates through the screen. I'm personally making my comments based on a very similar situation. Twenty-two months ago today my 10-year-old son had a battle with leukemia for 14 months. We had an accident on the day of discharge, and we were on our way going home when there was no brain activity whatsoever. The hardest decision I ever made in my life was to say no respirator, no ventilator, because quality of life is everything for us.

When I look at you and I look at the pictures of your beautiful daughter, I cannot imagine what you are feeling with the decision to continue on and tell me, in your opinion, how do you determine quality of life for Terri, because my heart, I could have never taken my son off ever. I would have backed you 100 percent, but I look at quality of life and that's everything.

KING: Fair question. Bob? What quality of life does she have?

R. SCHINDLER: The quality of life that she has that she get some enjoyment from her family. But there's the potential for her improvement is great as we're being told by these doctors.

KING: The doctors tell you that?

R. SCHINDLER: Absolutely.

KING: If there were no potential for improvement, you'd have to consider this lady's call, wouldn't you?

M. SCHINDLER: I would never ever in 100 years starve my child to death. Ever.

KING: Never?

M. SCHINDLER: Never. There is no mother in this world that would starve your child to death. It's the most horrendous thing you've ever seen in your life.

R. SCHINDLER: To starve anybody to death. To stand there and watch a person starving to death is ghoulish. To see -- I don't care who it was, if it was -- talking earlier, an animal, I couldn't do it.

M. SCHINDLER: My Terri has so much to give. If this is where she is going to be without any rehab, I can't wait to get her home.

KING: We'll be back with more moments and more calls. Don't go away.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

M. SCHINDLER: To momma. To momma. What, baby? It's OK. It's OK. Mommy loves you. Mommy loves you.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: He has nothing to gain. He's not going to receive a penny upon Terri's death

KING: No insurance here?

M. SCHIAVO: There's no money, there's no insurance. There's probably about $50,000 left in her estate. I will not receive a penny from this. Now what's funny about this, back about two years, the Schindlers offered me $700,000 to walk away.

KING: They have that kind of money?

M. SCHIAVO: They get money from the right wing activists, the right to life groups. (CROSSTALK)

KING: The right to life group is willing to pay you 700,000 to walk away?

M. SCHIAVO: Right.

And two years ago, I offered what was left of Terri's money to charity three times and the Schindlers refused to do that.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

KING: Robert.

R. SCHINDLER: The -- his offer to donate Terri's money to charity came after a guardian ad litem made a recommendation to the court to disregard the petition to stop Terri's feeding.

KING: Did you offer him $700,000.

R. SCHINDLER: Yes.

KING: You did?

R. SCHINDLER: Yes.

KING: You got paid by a right wing group?

R. SCHINDLER: No. It was just -- a number was floated out there to see...

KING: You were willing to pay that, though?

R. SCHINDLER: We would have, yes.

KING: It's not mercenary then, David? He could have taken the 700 and ran? So what's his point?

GIBBS: We're not sure, Larry. We don't know. When we look at this situation, it would be so easy for him to get on with his life. He has two children, he has a new girlfriend. He could, with one stroke of the pen, one signature, he can get on with his life and let these parents take care of his daughter.

KING: Is there a concern that if something happened to the two of you, the state would have to take care of Terri?

M. SCHINDLER: No. Well, unless my daughter and my son would get custody.

R. SCHINDLER: No. They have -- my son and daughter, both of them have made that request to be the guardian.

M. SCHINDLER: They would be fighting Michael. The two of them would be fighting instead of us. GIBBS: You have to look at these quality of life issues and you have to ask yourself, who is in the place to make these determinations? We believe that God is the giver and taker of life. For us as mere men, mere mortals to walk around and say that your life is worth living and someone else isn't is a profound arrogance.

KING: But you do agree there are some cases where plugs are pulled?

GIBBS: Plugs are pulled when the machine is keeping the person alive. As you can see on the video footage, Terri is very much alive.

KING: She's not attached to anything?

GIBBS: She's not attached to anything. She just needs help. She can't swallow food and water. And so she needs help. You could, instead of using a tube, you could have a nurse stand over Terri and drip feed food down her throat. You have to be real careful that she doesn't asphyxiate or have difficulty with aspiration. But they use a tube because that's the cleanest and safest way to do it but to get the food and water into her system, that's the only assistance she needs.

KING: What's her life expectancy?

M. SCHINDLER: It was 50 years. Fifty or more years.

R. SCHINDLER: They had an actuary testify at the malpractice, that's why they won up to $20 million.

KING: And he said she had 50 more years?

R. SCHINDLER: He recited his wedding vows at that malpractice trial.

KING: Tampa, Florida, hello.

CALLER: Yes, Larry. First, I find it amazing that society seems to put more effort into finding humane ways to kill convicted murderers than actually something as far as starvation as a solution for Terri. My question as far as the parents, what speculation is there as far as that he's actually involved in Terri's condition and do you see that as the reason why he's not (UNINTELLIGIBLE) rehabilitation?

KING: There's the fear that she might accuse him of having something if she were able to speak? That's just pure speculation?

R. SCHINDLER: No way we could know that.

KING: Littleton, Colorado, hello.

CALLER: Hello, Larry. God bless you. I'd like to ask Mr. and Mrs. Schindler if they believe in divine healing?

KING: Divine healing. R. SCHINDLER: I believe that God heals.

KING: That's divine healing.

R. SCHINDLER: I believe in God.

M. SCHINDLER: Absolutely.

R. SCHINDLER: We've seen miracles.

M. SCHINDLER: We've seen miracles with Terri.

KING: So it would not shock you if Terri spoke tomorrow?

R. SCHINDLER: No.

M. SCHINDLER: No.

KING: We'll be back with our remaining moments with the Schindlers and David Gibbs. Don't go away.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Look here. Look here. Follow it. Follow it. OK. Look up here again. OK. I see. OK. Now, Terri, Terri, look at me. Look at me over here. No. Over here, Terri. Try and look at me. I understand. One eye is further out, the right eye is further out than the left. So if she looks this way, the right eye has a tendency to be further over toward me. Look at me over here.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

KING: That's young Terri Schindler. She would later be Terri Schiavo. Schiavo.

Meadville, Pennsylvania. Wow. Hello.

CALLER: Hey, Larry. Love your show.

KING: Hi. Thank you.

CALLER: My question to the Schindlers is, was there ever a police investigation conducted into the circumstances of Terri's predicament?

R. SCHINDLER: The police report was recommended to be sent to the homicide division. It's right on the police report.

KING: And?

R. SCHINDLER: To be routed to homicide, and it was never investigated. And we tried to file a report with the police department when we discovered all this, what we felt was incriminating evidence, circumstantial evidence, and they refused to accept a report from us.

KING: How long have you been involved in this case, David?

GIBBS: Working with a team of lawyers, and the battle's been going on 14 years. I've been involved in the last three.

KING: How are you going to do Thursday?

GIBBS: Well, we're praying, and we're hoping, because we're getting down to where it's the two-minute drill, to use football analogy, and we got to score a touchdown.

Btu we believe the law's on our side. We believe it's right. We believe we're standing for the right thing and we're hoping that if given the opportunity, the Florida courts will agree.

KING: If God forbid you lose, would you be there when she dies?

R. SCHINDLER: We'd do it again. We'll be with her.

M. SCHINDLER: Yes. Every step of the way.

R. SCHINDLER: What happened is -- when we were denied visitation, because we were accused of harming Terri back in -- it was in March, and the husband denied us visitation for two months.

M. SCHINDLER: That's the longest we've ever gone.

R. SCHINDLER: And we've never gone that long not seeing Terri, but we'll be with her.

M. SCHINDLER: Absolutely.

KING: I thank you very much for coming, for flying here across the country, out of hurricaneville in Florida and for...

M. SCHINDLER: Thank you for having us.

KING: ... making the presentation you made tonight.

R. SCHINDLER: Thank you.

M. SCHINDLER: Thank you.

KING: It's been extraordinary.

R. SCHINDLER: I thank you very much.

GIBBS: Appreciate your grace.

KING: We talked about death tonight. We had to talk about the death of Kaye Coleman on Friday. And a great man died over the weekend, Marvin Davis. He was a dear friend, a great, great businessman, but most of all, a family man. Marvin Davis loved Barbara and he loved his family. Sure, he was worth $5 billion. Sure, he had an immense house and all these friends and business deals all over the world. But when it came down to the crux of it, Marvin Davis cared about the people he cared about the most, those closest to him, all the Davises.

At his funeral yesterday, they had written in the memorial service something written by Sir Laurence Olivier. I thought it appropriate to read to you tonight. This by Sir Olivier.

"Death is nothing at all. I have only slipped away into the next room. I am I and you are you. Whoever we were to each other we are still. Call me by my old familiar name, speak to me the easy way you always did. Put no difference into your tone, wear no forced air or solemnity or sorrow. Laugh as we always laughed at the little jokes that we enjoyed together. Play, smile, think of me, pray for me. Let my name be forever the household word that it always was. Let it be spoken without effect, without the ghost of a shadow on it. Life means all that it ever meant. It is the same as it ever was, absolutely unbroken continuity.

What is death but a negligible accident? Why should I be out of my mind because I am out of sight? I am but waiting for you, for an interval, somewhere very near, just around the corner."

I'll be right back.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

KING: Tomorrow night, the Peterson case. The prosecution may end on Thursday.

Thursday night, we're on at 11:00 Eastern, with our follow-up to the presidential debate. At 12:00 Eastern, we'll be followed by Aaron Brown, who'll be right here with us in Los Angeles, because Aaron Brown is doing a California/West Coast/North/South sweep this week. And he's in Seattle. Look at him. His favorite city, Seattle, Washington. Aaron Brown comes home.

TO ORDER A VIDEO OF THIS TRANSCRIPT, PLEASE CALL 800-CNN-NEWS OR USE OUR SECURE ONLINE ORDER FORM LOCATED AT www.fdch.com


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