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Schiavo's Nurse Speaks Out; Gas Prices Rise Nationwide

Aired March 22, 2005 - 14:30   ET


KYRA PHILLIPS, CNN ANCHOR: Let's check stories "Now in the News." Five students remain hospitalized following the deadliest school shooting since the Columbine massacre. Two are in critical condition right now. It happened in northern Minnesota yesterday. Authorities say a high school student killed seven classmates and his grandparents before turning the gun on himself. I'm being told this picture just in of 16-year-old Jeff Weise, the young boy police believe opened fire on those students and his grandparents and then taking the gun to himself.
Now we're waiting for word from a federal appeals court here in Atlanta on the Terri Schiavo case. The court is considering a bid by Schiavo's parents to reconnect her feeding tube. We're going to check in with Miles O'Brien at the courthouse straight ahead.

Federal prosecutors want a new trial date for terror suspect Zacarias Moussaoui. The government filed a motion to start the long- delayed trial in October. Moussaoui is the only U.S. defendant charged in connection with the September 11th attacks. Yesterday the Supreme Court rejected his bid to question three al Qaeda prisoners.

A teenaged girl is being held hostage at a home in Brunswick, New Jersey. Police have surrounded the house. A hostage team is there, too. Police believe that one or two armed men are holding a 14-year- old girl inside that home.

Now we're going to hear more from that nurse who says that she cared for Terri Schiavo more than a year in the mid-1990s. This morning I spoke with Carla Sauer Iyer. I want to play some of our conversation for you now.


PHILLIPS: You worked with her from April '95 to August 11, '96. So it's been a while since you've seen her. But let's talk about the time you did spend with her. And take us back to how she was then, when you worked with her, and the conversations you said you had with her. Just describe to us her condition.

CARLA SAUER IYER, TERRI SCHIAVO'S FORMER NURSE: Terri's condition at the time -- she was communicating with staff. Her cognitive abilities included laughing, talking, telling the staff that she was in pain. She would say words such as mommy, help me. She'd say, I'm in pain. she wouldn't say the letter N very well. She would let you know that she was having her menses, her monthly menses. She was eating. She was eating thickened liquids such as puddings, jellos, milkshakes. She was taking nutrition from a baby bottle. PHILLIPS: And did you record her progress? Did you make notes and charts of how she was doing and how did family members -- how did Michael Schiavo respond to that?

IYER: I would document pages and pages of Terri's positive entries in her chart. Michael would take the chart every time he'd come in, shut the door. The pages would be missing when he left.

PHILLIPS: Did you tell other nurses about that?

IYER: Yes. All the nurses knew. They were scared. They were intimidated by Michael. Michael would threaten to terminate or go tell the director of nursing or administrator.

PHILLIPS: How would this -- how would one individual have such an impact on so many nurses and such a facility like Largo Convalescent Center? It seems like if everybody gathered together and said, look, we're caring for this patient, you can't take these charts, you can't threaten us, we're taking care of this woman -- don't you find it hard to believe that you all would have been fired for caring for somebody you were paid to care for?

IYER: Right. Even when I was -- my first day of orientation with the facility, I wasn't orientated, I was orientated to Michael, Michael's wishes, Michael's orders. Do what Michael wants, or you'll be terminated. He threatened lawsuits. The other places that Terri was at, he had lawsuits against that place. They were scared of him.

PHILLIPS: So did he ask you how she was doing? How did he respond when you told him that she was communicating and saying words and eating and making progress?

IYER: He would be upset. Like I said, he would read the notes, and those notes would disappear after he left.

PHILLIPS: What else would he say to you directly? Did he ever threaten you?

IYER: Yes. He would get right up to you, scream. He would say, do not -- do not follow the doctors' orders. Follow my orders. There was rehab written for Terri. He would actually take the chart and void those rehab orders.

PHILLIPS: Why didn't anybody ever call the police?

IYER: I had gone to the police. I had gone to the police. I had told my director of nursing, and to my administrator and they said they would take care of it. They would call DCF.

PHILLIPS: So there was never a time that Michael Schiavo was supportive and ask you, is she doing better? It looks like she's doing well, I'm excited she's making progress?

IYER: Oh, no, no, no, never, never.

PHILLIPS: Did he want her to die? IYER: Oh, yes. He would blurt out, when is that B-I-T-C-H going to die? He would just blurt it out. It doesn't matter who was listening, visitors, staff. Hasn't she died yet? It's costing me a lot of money.

PHILLIPS: So why were you...

IYER: There's no -- there's no...

PHILLIPS: Go ahead.

IYER: There's no difference from what's going on then to what's going on now.

PHILLIPS: It's amazing. I just find it hard to believe that the police never did anything, if, indeed, they were called. So were you eventually fired for standing up to Michael Schiavo? Or why were you let go in August of '96?

IYER: I was let go for poor nursing judgment regarding Terri Schiavo. That was my official firing.

PHILLIPS: Are you concerned at all, a number of years later, a little more than a year later, that you may be being used in a very political situation right now in a story that's making headlines? So many politicians getting involved? Many people coming forward and saying this isn't about Terri Schiavo. This is all about politics. Are you concerned that you're being used and what you're saying is being used?

IYER: No, I'm not concerned. I don't play political games. I was one of the very few people that were able to take care of Terri. I witnessed. I heard her speak. I would see her interact with nurses and visitors. I just want the truth to be known.

PHILLIPS: Carla, did she ever get therapy? Did you ever try to give her therapy?

IYER: Yes. The nurses and I would give her range of motion to increase mobility of her joints. And she was able to move her arms and her legs after we did that. And I would even put a washcloth in Terri's hands, and Michael came in and said, remove that washcloth. That's therapy.

PHILLIPS: Do you believe if that therapy would have continued, if there would have been more intervention at that time when you worked with Terri Schiavo, that she would be a different person today?

IYER: Yes. Absolutely, absolutely.


IYER: She would be able to communicate more. She would be able to walk. If she had -- just a little bit of therapy. The little bit that she was doing -- she would be able to eat, like we all eat. Instead of the thickened liquids. She would progress a lot more. PHILLIPS: Did you ever have any conversations with her doctors, with neurologists? Did doctors say to you, look, I see potential with this woman. You need to do therapy as a nurse. This is what I want you to do? Did you have direction from doctors that were seeing her?

IYER: At the time, physical therapy rehab was ordered for Terri. There was a doctor order. On her chart, the diagnosis was brain damage, not PVS.

PHILLIPS: Final thoughts, Carla. Why are you coming out now, and why are you speaking out now?

IYER: I want the public to know. I want the truth to be known, that Terri is not in a persistent vegetative state.

PHILLIPS: You believe there's still hope now today?

IYER: Oh, 100 percent. Just a little bit of therapy.

PHILLIPS: Carla Iyer, thank you for your time.

IYER: You're welcome.


PHILLIPS: Well, CNN has calls in to Michael Schiavo's attorney to talk about these allegations. Now a couple of things to keep in mind. Carla Iyer is one of the healthcare workers who's testified and given affidavits about Schiavo's state in court. Schiavo's parents have said there is hope and a judge has said that their doctor's conclusion is not believable. In fact, the court-appointed doctors have determined that Terri Schiavo is in a persistent vegetative state with no hope of recovery. This, in essence, is the position of her husband and it's been backed by the courts for years.

Meanwhile, we're waiting to hear more from outside the courtroom here in Atlanta. Just blocks away from here, the legal spotlight is on the Federal Appeals Court in the Terri Schiavo case. We'll check in with Miles O'Brien.

Also, we're going to switch gears. Have you been to the gas station lately? Well, you're feeling the pain at the pump, I'm sure. Tips on gas prices and fuel efficient cars as soon as we come back.


PHILLIPS: Well, as gas prices keep accelerating, keeping a sharp eye on pumps across the country. Christina Park has the details for us -- Christina?

CHRISTINA PARK, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Hi, Kyra. Are you driving any less due to these high gas prices?

PHILLIPS: I'm probably driving even more. That's probably not what I should say, right? PARK: Well, surprisingly, rising fuel prices aren't putting brakes on demand. At, we're tracking that nation's gas prices, which have skyrocketed more than 10 percent in the past month, from Honolulu's $2.34 per gallon to Newark, New Jersey's $1.91 per gallon. AAA says the nationwide average is about $2.07 per gallon.

Now, everyone is feeling the pinch from truckers to airlines, but government officials say solid economic growth is helping to soften the blow.

Now, if you're in the market for swapping out your big gas guzzler but at the same time don't want to compromise safety, ranks that too. Overall, the news isn't so good, though. The Insurance Institute for Highway Safety says few small fuel- efficient cars performed even marginally well in a recent round of side-impact crash tests. It gave just two cars an acceptable rating -- the Toyota Corolla and the Chevrolet Cobalt.

Interesting dilemma for consumers who want to do what's best for the earth and their wallets, but also don't want to put their family members in danger. Experts say as technology improves, so will safety ratings for green vehicles. And for your complete guide to safe cars that can help you save gas, log on to That is the latest from the dot-com desk. Back to you, Kyra.

PHILLIPS: All right. Thanks, Christina.

Well, we've got news on another interest rate hike just 30 minutes from now. Up next, how is Wall Street handling it this afternoon? Plus, a makeover at The Gap. Sarah Jessica Parker won't be the star of those ads anymore. Say it ain't so. Find out who it is.


PHILLIPS: Just a couple blocks from CNN Center, the legal spotlight continues to shine on the Appeals Court in the Terri Schiavo case. Our Miles O'Brien outside of the courthouse of the three-judge paneling looking at this right now. What's the latest, Miles?

MILES O'BRIEN, CNN ANCHOR: Well, they operate in secret here, Kyra, so we really don't know what's going on for sure. As a matter of fact, people outside this process consider it a little bit of a mystery. But essentially, the three-judge panel looking at the merits of this particular case, and specifically looking at the ruling which was issued earlier this morning. Lightning bolt there, right here, storming big time here in Atlanta right now.

Looking at that ruling, which occurred and was released out of Tampa, Florida, and the Federal District Court there. All this morning, I've been trying to read the legal tea leaves without any expertise whatsoever. So it's high time we turn to somebody who has a law degree and is in the bar -- B.J. Bernstein, an Atlanta attorney who's had a chance to go through what I did in a rather amateurish way on live TV here. B.J., good to have you with us. Let's get through to the meat of the legal matter, because there's so many misunderstandings in the media about what the debate is. Boil down the debate right now that is being considered in that building behind us.

B.J. BERNSTEIN, ATTORNEY: The judges are looking at the order that came from the district judge. That order has certain specific issues. First of all, under the 14th Amendment of the Constitution, did Terri Schiavo have due process? And the lower courts said yes, she did. First of all, the judge, Judge Greer in Florida, who originally had this case, followed the -- looked at the law.

There were some complaints by the Schindler family that he did wrong because they didn't go to the hospital and see the circumstances. The district court said no, there's no requirement to do so. They also were complaining, the Schindler family, saying there's never been a lawyer for Terri Schiavo.

But the district court judge looked at everything and said yes, number one, there was a lawyer, a guardian Ed Lightum (ph) appointed for her, and the argument that the Schindlers have been making would be the alternative argument, anyway. So in essence, it's been covered every way. Now this 11th Circuit Court is looking at that and saying, is that correct, or did that judge make an error on that point?

O'BRIEN: All right, so when you look at those points, those are pretty clear-cut legal points, really not debatable points, actually.


O'BRIEN: So it doesn't really -- I don't see, as a layman, once again, I don't see a big chink for an appeal there, do you?

BERNSTEIN: There's not a big chink. And then the other part that we've been talking about the media, and that in conversation we've had a lot of talk about, is our right to our religious beliefs. And that decision brings that up, too. The court -- the District Court discusses that, but they make a very important distinction.

Your constitutional right, on your religious beliefs, is whether the government is restricting your religious beliefs. Here, it's individuals that are being attacked for what they're saying. Mr. Schiavo, the husband, and the hospice. That's not the government. So, again, even that issue, in terms of on a constitutional level, isn't necessarily going to cut it with this 11th circuit.

O'BRIEN: All right. And the separate but related issue -- closely related issue, is whether, in fact, some sort of emergency action should be taken, a temporary restraining order, which would force the feeding tube in immediately. And there's a lot of discussion back and forth as to how imminent her demise would be, which is, after all, the reason you would prompt this emergency action. This court right now is looking at that narrow issue first, correct?

BERNSTEIN: That's correct. They're looking at whether -- is this an emergency, and is there substantial likelihood that the Schindler family on behalf of Terri would succeed? The District Court has said no. Now, the 11th Circuit's going to look at that also.

O'BRIEN: All right. And very likely, they will uphold the District Court ruling, which opens the door for the actual case to be played out. That's got to happen in a fairly quick manner, doesn't it?

BERNSTEIN: Well, it should. I mean, technically, these kind of cases take months and months and months. These judges know they don't have months and months, or else it's moot. So even if this doesn't work here, I would imagine the District Court, they're working away still on the actual substantive, meaning the underlying issues of the whole case.

O'BRIEN: All right, so B.J. Bernstein, who looks at the law for us frequently. Not only do we have the prospect of that playing out in a Tampa U.S. District Court, but both sides saying, at some point, it is quite likely, if they don't get any -- depending on the outcome here, I should say, the U.S. Supreme Court may, once again, be invited to entertain this.

And already three times, they have said they don't want to get in the middle of this case. So Kyra, it is a complicated, emotional story with all kinds of legal avenues to explore, but we're doing our best to track it here for you.

PHILLIPS: Miles, you still amaze me -- within five minutes, that you can take us through 15 years of court documents. Thank you very much. We'll continue to check in with you.

And just about a half an hour ago, the Federal Reserve announced it's raising interest rates.


PHILLIPS: All right, Val. Now let's talk about the Gap. All these cute commercials with Sarah Jessica Parker. I guess we're not going to see that anymore?

VALERIE MORRIS, CNN CORRESPONDENT: No, we aren't, but they want to say a big thank of you to her. The "Sex and the City" star, Sarah Jessica Parker, did a great job. They said the demographics were great. She reached a lot of people. But Gap plans to use an up-and- coming star for its summer campaign. The retailer had originally signed Parker in mid-2004 to a three-season contract, which it said was the first multi-season deal that it had ever signed with a celebrity. She appeared, as was the contract, in Gap ad campaigns for Fall of 2004 through Spring of 2005.

So now the Gap lady, so to speak, is British soul singer Joss Stone. She's going to be featured in ads promoting GAP's white denim line. The company says it doesn't have any future plans to sign a multi-season contract, however.

And that is the very latest from Wall Street -- Kyra, back to you.

PHILLIPS: All right, Val. Thank you.

Well, it's just before the top of the hour. The day's big stories are next. We're learning more this afternoon about the victims of yesterday's school shooting in Minnesota.

Plus the latest on the alleged gunman. And CNN's Dr. Sanjay Gupta in the house is going to explain the conflicting reports on Terri Schiavo's condition. Why are doctors saying different things? We'll try and hammer it out.


PHILLIPS: "Now in the News," a federal appeals court weighing the merits of the latest legal moves in the Terri Schiavo case. The court is considering an appeal by Schiavo's parents to reconnect her feeding tube. And a request by her husband, who opposes the move. Miles O'Brien will give us an update from the courthouse in just four minutes.

The painter accused of plotting to kidnap David Letterman's son and nanny is denying the charges. Kelly Frank pleaded not guilty in a Montana court today. Authorities say Frank, who was hired to work on Letterman's Montana ranch, was going to demand $5 million in ransom.

The man accused of kidnapping and sexually assaulting and killing little Jessica Marie Lunsford appeared via video link in a Florida court today. A judge denied bond for John Evander Couey. Couey is expected to formally enter a plea on the charges, which police say he has confessed to, at his arraignment in April.

A portrait of a troubled and intolerant teenager is emerging in northern Minnesota. He's the one officials say gunned down nine people on an Indian reservation before killing himself.


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