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Court of Appeals Refuses to Order Terri's Feeding Tube be Put Back in; Police Continue to Search for Answers in Deadly Shooting Rampage at Minnesota High School

Aired March 23, 2005 - 07:00   ET


BILL HEMMER, CNN ANCHOR: Good morning. New overnight developments in the Terri Schiavo case. A court of appeals refused to order Terri's feeding tube be put back in. Her parents sayer that devastated, but will continue their fight today.
Looking frail and uncomfortable, the pope appears in public, and there is new speculation about his health.



BARRY BONDS, PROFESSIONAL BASEBALL PLAYER: You guys hurt me bad enough, you've finally got there.


HEMMER: The home run leader, Barry Bonds, all fed up again and questioning his own future in the game, on this AMERICAN MORNING.

ANNOUNCER: From the CNN Broadcast Center in New York, this is AMERICAN MORNING, with Bill Hemmer and Soledad O'Brien.

Good morning. Welcome, everybody. The clock ticking in the Terri Schiavo case. She's been off the feeding tube for nearly five days now. The legal battle, of course, waging on. This morning, we talk with legal expert Alan Dershowitz about what he thinks is going to happen next.

HEMMER: Also, Soledad, piecing together the story behind Jeff Weise, the teenage suspect in the Red Lake school shooting. Troubling stuff, too, Nazi Web sites, cryptic messages, strange behavior at school. We continue to dive into what happened there in northern Minnesota. Wow.

O'BRIEN: Mr. Cafferty has got the Question of the Day this morning.

JACK CAFFERTY, CNN ANCHOR: Yes, I went to that Web site that that young man spent a year corresponding with, and the first thing you see is a big swastika right at the top, and then you start reading it, and it's very scary stuff. We'll take a look in a couple of minutes.

HEMMER: Jack, thanks. New developments tops our story this morning. Overnight in the Terri Schiavo matter, a three-judge panel at the 11th Circut Court of Appeals in Atlanta now denying the case of Schiavo's parents to have that feeding tube reinserted. The judges voted 2 to 1 to deny that appeal.

On the story for us today, Tony Harris at the federal appeals court in Atlanta, Bob Franken at Terri Schiavo's hospice in Pinellas, Florida.

Tony, let's start with you. The court said what there in Atlanta about her case?

TONY HARRIS, CNN CORRESPONDENT: OK, Bill, it said a couple of things. First of all, as you mentioned, the decision came over at 2:30 a.m. Eastern Time from the 11th Circuit Court, the building just behind me here. And what the judges ruled is that they will not intervene in this case. The decision runs about 32-pages long. What we've done is we've cobbled together some of the thoughts of the two judges that voted in the two to one majority. We want to share them with you right now. It goes on to say that, "The plaintiffs have failed to demonstrate substantial case on the merits of any of their claims. The district court's carefully thought-out decision to deny temporary relief in these circumstances is not an abuse of discretion there."

"There is no denying," it goes on to say, "the absolute tragedy that has befallen Mrs. Schiavo. We all have our own familiar our own loved ones and our own children. However, we are called upon to make a collective, objective decision concerning a question of law. That is the majority opinion from judges Ed Carnes and Frank Hull."

An interesting point here, Judge Carnes is a Bush 41 appointee. And as you mentioned just a moment ago, Bill, this is a devastating decision for the Schindler family that has worked so long and hard to keep their daughter and sister alive through the years.

But as you also mentioned, and we'll be talking about it throughout the course of the day, the Schindler family as promised to fight on.

HARRIS: Tony, thanks for that, in Atlanta.

Down to Florida now with Bob Franken. Five days without now without any nourishment for Terri Schiavo. Is there a sense now, a sense of urgency that time is running out for her, Bob?

BOB FRANKEN, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well, a sense of urgency and a sense of defeat, to be perfectly honest. Of course, there was a bit of a high after Congress passed its legislation in that extraordinary session Sunday and Monday. But the family feels like its legal options are running out, feeling like the last hope of the Supreme Court may not bear fruit. So as they go and visit Terri Schiavo, they focus on Tallahassee and last-minute efforts there to get the legislature to somehow create a new law which would result in the feeding tube being reconnected. And in that regard, there was an emotional plea from Terri Schiavo's mother.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I understand that we only need one vote in the state senate to save my daughter. Please, senators, for the love of God, I'm begging you, don't let my daughter die of thirst.


FRANKEN: And in the court papers filed in connection with the appeals court litigation, the father for Terri Schiavo described her condition this way, a significant decline. Her eyes were sunken and dark, and her face and lips were dry. She's increasingly lethargic. That's in contrast to the spiritual counselor who went in with the family. He says she was cheerful and smiling. And so there's probably confusion about her condition, but no confusion over the fact that time is a critical factor in this story -- Bill.

HEMMER: Indeed. Bob Franken, in Pinellas Park, Florida -- Soledad.

O'BRIEN: Let's go to Joe Johns. He's at the Supreme Court this morning.

Joe, good morning to you. Is an appeal to the Supreme Court now the next step for the Schindler family?

JOE JOHNS, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well, Soledad, what's happening here is if the family has decided that they have exhausted their appeals in Atlanta, they can come here to the Supreme Court. Justice Anthony Kennedy, of course, would likely be the point person on that.

Now he has the power on his own to issue an injunction, allowing the feeding tube to be put back in. However, on past cases involving Schiavo, he has deferred to the full court.

What's the problem here? One of the problems, some legal experts say, is that when the Congress passed the law over the weekend, it did not change substantive law; it only the procedure allowing Schiavo's parents to go into federal court.

So in past occasions, of course, the court has ruled somewhat slimly on the issue of the right to die. But this perhaps a different matter. If it happens here in Washington, it is likely to happen very quickly. That, of course, leaves open the possibility if it's turned down in Washington for the Florida legislature to try to come up with another law -- Soledad.

O'BRIEN: Joe Johns in Washington D.C. this morning for us. Joe, thanks.

Harvard law professor Alan Dershowitz knows the 11th Circuit Court of Appeals very well. His new book is called rights from wrongs. He joins us Boston this morning to talk about the Schiavo case.

Nice to see you, Alan. Thanks for being back with us.

Let's get right to it -- what's your reaction to the federal court of appeals ruling?

ALAN DERSHOWITZ, HARVARD LAW PROFESSOR: Well, it's not surprising. They're handling it the way they'd handle a death case.

It's interesting that Judge Carnes, among the majority, is a judge who has been very active in death-penalty case. And I think they're very concerned that if they establish a precedent in this right-to-die case, it might come back to haunt them in capital cases, which frequently come before the 11th Circuit, and then go right up to the United States Supreme Court, and I think that may explain why they finally decided not to grant any relief in this case.

O'BRIEN: Here's what one of the dissenting judges, the one dissenting judge, had to say: "Teresa Schiavo's death, which is imminent, effectively ends the litigation without a fair opportunity to fully consider the merits of the plaintiff's constitutional claims. We should, at minimum, grant plaintiffs all writs petition for emergency-injunction relief."

It sounds like he's sort of saying, listen, it's been argued for 12 years, what's wrong with giving them another hearing about the argument?

DERSHOWITZ: Well, I think that makes a lot of sense. And if this were a death-penalty case, where you just stopped the execution from going forward, that argument might prevail. Here, what's required is reinsertion of the tube, which is an active step. And I think if the court feels in the end she's going to be permitted to die, probably they conclude it would be inhumane to put a tube back in, only to have to take it out again.

I think the only hope they have in the Supreme Court is that there is a fascinating issue, based on the new statute, because usually, Congress is only allowed to act generally, make general laws. The courts are supposed to decide specific cases, and here you have a congressional law which says we have a new statute, only for this woman and only for this case. I can imagine some of the justices wanting to weigh in on that issue, but I don't think they're going to want to use this emotional case as a vehicle for making big law about many, many other potential pieces of legislation that can come up over the years.

O'BRIEN: So you think the members of the supreme court might be compelled to actually have a voice in it.

I'm curious, though, about what we've heard about the Florida legislature. Just a minute ago, we heard Terri Schiavo's mother saying I'm begging the senators -- she's talking about the Florida legislature -- to get involved. What can they do?

DERSHOWITZ: Well, you know, this is a state case, and states have enormous power, and they could pass a statute, presumably keeping her alive, and then it would have to go back into the state courts to decide whether that statute is constitutional under Florida law. And the courts generally have sided with the husband in this case, and the legislature conceivably could side with the parents.

Look, if I were writing a new law for the future, I might, myself, side with the parents. I think if you have parents who are willing to keep the woman alive and the husband having a new relationship, I agree with President Bush, that it's always better to err on the side of life. The problem is President Bush doesn't agree with that when it comes to the death penalty in other cases.

O'BRIEN: But let me just jump in there, because at the end of the day, though, isn't the husband's argument that it's not a matter of, hey, listen, there's somebody else who's willing to keep her alive, and I just don't want the bother. Isn't his argument, this is her wish. She said several times to me and members of the family, that she wouldn't want to be kept in this state. And isn't he essentially arguing she has the right, as a human being still, to make a decision about what she wanted? I thought that's the point of his argument.

DERSHOWITZ: Absolutely right, but I think that a court could easily say we need more than just the word of one or two people in a situation like this, that that's not enough to overcome the presumption in favor of life. What we need is a living will, or a witness to a statement that she knew that she faced this and wanted to end her life.

One can easily see if this were a new case, courts coming up and legislators coming out varying ways on this. The arguments on both sides, though, very, very compelling. The problem is the rampant hypocrisy of conservatives who never want to see the federal courts intervene.

By the way, you'd see as much hypocrisy on the other side if this were a death-penalty case, and the legislature were to say no, no, no, don't kill this man, because he might be innocent. Then the liberals would be jumping up and down saying, wow, what a wonderful piece of legislation, and the conservatives would be yelling state rights. Most of these cases are result driven. Somebody decides what result they want, and then they talk about the constitutional procedural issues.

O'BRIEN: It is no surprise it's all become very political, obviously.

Alan Dershowitz joining thus morning. Nice to see you as always. Thank you -- Bill.

HEMMER: About 11 minutes past the hour now. From overseas, Pope John Paul II appeared at his Vatican window about two hours ago. It was brief, but it was public. A blessing, a cheering crowd of pilgrims gathered in St. Peter's Square.

To Rome right now and our bureau chief, Alessio Vinci.

What is the Vatican saying, Alessio, about the pope's condition so far today?

ALESSIO VINCI, CNN ROME BUREAU CHIEF: Well, the Vatican is basically not saying much. The fact that Vatican officials are telling us that the pope's health continues to remain a concern, that his recovery period, he's expected to last longer than expected, but Vatican officials also are telling us that there are no plans at this time to bring the pope back at the hospital. Now, Wednesdays is usually when the pope holds a general audience, a meeting with pilgrims coming to Rome from all around the world.

Today, that audience has been canceled. As a matter of fact, all public audiences of the pope have been canceled since he was hospitalized for the first time in early February.

Nevertheless, the pope made a brief appearance from the window overlooking St. Peter's Square, from his apostolic palace. The pope looked in pain. He looked gaunt. He did however, nevertheless, manage to bless energetically a few thousand pilgrims, especially many of them coming from his native Poland, and he managed to bless them, and then he was wheeled away back in his (INAUDIBLE).

So the pope is still recovering slowly from the tracheotomy. Vatican officials, however, are saying that there are no plans to bring him back to the hospital -- Bill.

HEMMER: Keep us posted from there. Thanks, in Rome, Alessio Vinci there.


HEMMER: A big foul-up at Fox, how an on-screen blunder sent "American Idol" into chaos last night, and they've got a mess on their hands. We'll get to it.

O'BRIEN: And look at these pictures. He's got a bum knee, but is that the only reason that Barry Bonds say he's going to sit out this season.

HEMMER: And faith in America, a hot topic on college campus. Meet three friends with three very different beliefs, but one fear. Their story is still to come this hour, live in New York City on this AMERICAN MORNING.


HEMMER: Police continue to search for answers in the deadly shooting rampage at a Minnesota high school. Sixteen-year-old Jeff Weise is suspected of killing nine people on Monday before turning the gun on himself. Authorities are still investigating a motive there, but the FBI says Weise's alleged postings on a neo-Nazi Web site may offer some hints.

The FBI says Weise killed his grandfather and his grandfather's companion at their home, and then drove his grandfather's police cruiser to the school, where he allegedly shot seven people while wearing his grandfather's bulletproof vest and police holster. It is the deadliest school shooting since the 1999 massacre in Colorado that happened at Columbine High School, where 15 people, including the two gunmen, students at that school, were killed.

What may have triggered the shooting remains a mystery. We know that today, but there are clues along the way, along his very painful life as well.

David Mattingly picks up the story this morning in Red Lake.


DAVID MATTINGLY, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): To the public at large, details of what drove 16-year-old Jeff Weise on a murderous rampage remained as incomplete as the understanding of the boy himself. So far, the FBI will not confirm if this is the same Jeff Weise who identified himself last year on a neo-Nazi Web site.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: There could be some clues in that. It's a little premature to make that determination but we need to -- we're certainly open to looking at that.

MATTINGLY: Using the names "NativeNazi" and the German word for angel of death, the Jeff Weise here complained about the lack of full- blooded Natives on his Red Lake reservation because of "cultural dominance and interracial mixing."

He blamed the influence of rap music writing, "We have kids my age killing each other over things as simple as a fight. Things for us would improve vastly under a national socialist government" he wrote. "That is why I am pro-Nazi."

The idea of a young Native American being attracted to such a Web site, however, according to one expert is not as far fetched as you might think.

MARK POTOK, SOUTHERN POVERTY LAW CENTER: I think that it's not that uncommon. It's always the same phenomenon which is, you know, these are typically people who are members of more or less oppressed minority groups who want very much to identify with the oppressor, not the oppressed.

MATTINGLY: The Web site belongs to the Libertarian National Socialist Green Party, which posted a statement about Weise saying, "He expressed himself well and was clearly, highly intelligent and contemplative, especially for one so young."

POTOK: This looks like a very screwed up kid, you know, who was going to explode in one way or another. You know, I think he was probably interested in all kinds of transgressive things, you know be that Hitler or Satan or whatever it might be.

MATTINGLY: The Minnesota newspaper "St. Paul Pioneer Press" reports Weise's father committed suicide and his mother is in a nursing home with injuries suffered in a traffic accident. The paper quoted unnamed relatives who said Weise was a loner and was teased by other kids. The FBI said Weise was not living with his grandfather yesterday when the murder spree began and would not say where. Investigators are unaware of any grudge the boy may have had with family or students at the Red Lake High School, though medical personnel dealing with the wounded say Weise's goal was clear.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: We had a couple of head injuries, close range. I think there was an intent to kill.

MATTINGLY: In web postings attributed to Weise he indicated he was suspected last year of threatening to shoot up the school on Hitler's birthday, something authorities have not confirmed. In fact, the FBI is unaware if Weise had any prior police record.

(on camera): One tribal leader tells CNN Weise was not the kind of young person who attracted a lot of attention in this small tight- knit community but now as an extended period of mourning is about to begin, it is clear that no one here will ever be able to forget him.

David Mattingly, CNN, Red Lake, Minnesota.


HEMMER: The FBI also telling us there is surveillance tape of Weise stalking the hallways of the school, but they also say that tape of the 911 calls will not be released at this time -- Soledad.

A Philadelphia-area couple seems to have vanished without a trace. We told you several weeks ago Richard Petrone and Danielle Imbo (ph) have been missing since February 19th. Police their cell phones, their credit cards have not been used, and the truck they were driving hasn't been seen. Their families still hope to learn what happened to the couple.


CRAIG MITNICK, PETRONE FAMILY SPOKESMAN: Good, decent, honest people do not just vanish off the face of this Earth, nor do very large black Dodge pickup trucks.

The families are all here today pleading for the public's help in any information that they can give to law enforcement in helping bring both Danielle and Rich home.

ANGELA PETRONE, RICHARD'S DAUGHTER: I just need them back, please. Please.


O'BRIEN: The families are offering a reward of $50,000 for any information.

What a mystery that is, too, Soledad.

In a moment, another mystery, too, sports-wise, Barry Bonds is only 11 home runs away from passing Babe Ruth, and already, he's talking about sitting out this season. His comments yesterday in another surprising press briefing. We'll get to it in a moment on AMERICAN MORNING.


HEMMER: On the verge of breaking baseball's most hallowed record, Barry Bonds may not play at all this season. He's just had another knee surgery, his third since October. He's has been caught up in the steroid scandal as well, and Bonds telling reporters yesterday that he is, quote, "mentally drained" and now broken by, of all people, the media.


BONDS: My family's tired. I'm tired. You guys wanted to hurt me bad enough. You finally got there.

QUESTION: When you say you guys, who do you mean.

BONDS: You, you, you, you, you -- the media, everybody, you finally got there.


HEMMER: Now Bonds is just 11 home runs away from tying Babe Ruth, 52 away from Hank Aaron's all-time record.

In our next hour, we'll talk with "Sports Illustrated" writer Gary Smith about Bonds' comments yesterday, and the entire issue of steroids in baseball. He has the cover story just out today in "Sports Illustrated," a very long and very detailed article, too, so we'll get to Gary next hour. You and you and you and you, Soledad.

O'BRIEN: Me? I don't cover sports. I never talked to the guy.

"Cafferty File"...

JACK CAFFERTY, CNN ANCHOR: Don't you feel sorry for Barry Bonds? What a poor pathetic creature. He gets millions to play a game for a living. He's never had a job in his life. All he does is swing a baseball bat, and he gets all this adulation and money, and he's unhappy, he's miserable, he's upset at the press. Why don't you go jump in San Francisco Bay, Barry, and do us all a favor?

A year before the shootings at his Minnesota high school, Jeff Weise began posting on the Libertarians National Socialist Green Party Web site. If you go there, and I did this morning, you find, in addition to swastika, things like this, quote, "National socialists are willing to engage in eugenics, racial separation and removal of elements hostile to a healthy society."

You are giving links to sites such as "White Revolution," "The Only Solution," "The National Alliance," which advocates an Aryan society, and which, quote, "pushes the boundaries of free speech."

The beauty of the Internet is its openness. You can find anything there, but maybe that's also its curse.

Here's the question, "Is it time to regulate sites like these on the Internet?"

I have no idea how you'd go about doing that, but I just wonder in the case of a kid like this, if these kind of things hadn't been available, maybe it turns out different. Maybe it does, but maybe it does. I don't know.

HEMMER: Something to consider. Thank you, Jack.

CAFFERTY: And I'm really worn out with Barry Bonds.

HEMMER: I can tell that already.

We'll lighten it up in a moment here with some "90-Second Pop."

Ahead on "90-Second Pop," "American Idol "may be tops in the ratings, but got the wrong numbers Tuesday night.

And NBC try as new version of an old hit. Will the British comedy get lost in translation, though, with American viewers? Stay with us on AMERICAN MORNING.



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