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CNN NEWSNIGHT AARON BROWN

Analysis of Terri Schiavo Case

Aired March 30, 2005 - 22:00   ET

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


AARON BROWN, CNN ANCHOR: By almost any standard tonight, legal or medical, Terri Schiavo is running out of time. After nearly 13 days without a feeding tube her body is shutting down and at some point may no longer be able to process food or fluids at all if a feeding tube were to be reinserted, which is now not likely to happen. On this the experts agree but the experts are not her dad.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

BOB SCHINDLER, FATHER OF TERRI SCHINDLER: Terri is still with us. Under the circumstances, she looks darn good, surprisingly good.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

BROWN: On the legal side yet another setback. The 11th Circuit Court of Appeals in Atlanta once again refused to intervene; 9-2 was the vote of that court, one judge slamming the White House and the Congress for acting in the judge's words in a manner at odds with the Constitution.

Late tonight lawyers for the family and we'll talk with them in a bit, filed another appeal with the United States Supreme Court. Meantime, outside the hospice, as one reporter put it earlier today, there is less chanting now, less chanting and more praying.

And to that image there are others to add tonight as well. For the past two weeks, the past several years in fact, our pictures of Terri Schiavo have been highly edited, a few select minutes drawn by her parents from eleven reels of videotape.

Tonight, the view widens considerably. For that we turn to CNN's Randi Kaye who is in Dunedin, Florida -- Randi, good evening.

RANDI KAYE, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Good evening to you, Aaron.

There are eleven tapes in all, as you mentioned, and this is all part of evidence at the state court clerk's office. Two of the tapes are sealed so we will not be able to see those at all but we were able to screen today about two hours' worth of that video.

Now, this is video, I do want to mention the majority of it has never before been made public, never before released. It shows some very different sides of Terri Schiavo.

In some of the video, she's reacting. She seems to be reacting and very aware of her surroundings and who is in the room with her at the time, which would include at different points her doctor, her mother, her father and her husband, Michael Schiavo. At other times, Aaron, she seems completely unaware of her surroundings. This is the video that was shown during the 2002 appellate court hearings.

Now, I want to show you the first clip. This is Dr. Ronald Cranford in July of 2002 and he represented Michael Schiavo at the 2002 hearing. Let's take a listen.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

MARY SCHINDLER, MOTHER OF TERRI SCHIAVO: Hi, how are you? How's your cold? Huh?

DR. RONALD CRANFORD, UNIVERSITY OF MINNESOTA MEDICAL SCHOOL (voice-over): Look at me over here, Theresa. I'm over here. I'm over to your left or your right, I'm sorry.

MICHAEL SCHIAVO, HUSBAND OF TERRI SCHIAVO (voice-over): Try it again.

CRANFORD: Theresa, turn your head over here sweetheart, come on. Come on, look at me over here.

SCHIAVO: Do both the face. Get in front of her and say, use visual and the auditory. In other words, get right in front of her and say follow you.

CRANFORD: Theresa, follow me over here. Theresa, come on.

SCHIAVO: Now follow to the right, go back.

CRANFORD: Theresa, come on.

SCHIAVO: To the right, to her right. I'm sorry, go.

CRANFORD: Come on to your right.

SCHIAVO: You go to her right. OK, keep going to the right.

CRANFORD: Theresa, over here.

SCHIAVO: Come on. We're over here.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

KAYE: Now, in some of the video you actually see Dr. Ronald Cranford pinching her under her arm and she groans very loudly. She's much more verbal than we've been able to see in the video that has been released until this point.

Now that last clip was with Dr. William Hamsfar (ph) where the music was being played and he represented Terri Schiavo's parents at the 2002 hearing. He ruled that she's very aware of her surroundings, not in a persistent vegetative state.

And, Dr. Ronald Cranford, who was representing Michael Schiavo, of course, did rule that she is indeed in a persistent vegetative state -- Aaron.

BROWN: Randi, nice, quick work tonight. Thank you, Randi Kaye in Florida tonight.

In this sad matter it's often seen to be that there are two sides, the Schindler's and Michael Schiavo's. In fact, there is a third side, Terri Schiavo's.

Jay Wolfson was appointed by the courts in Florida to represent her interest, to be her guardian and he joins us tonight from Tallahassee. It's good to see you, sir. I'm not sure if you could see the tape that -- could you see the tape that we just ran?

JAY WOLFSON, FMR. LEGAL GUARDIAN OF TERRI SCHIAVO: I've seen all those tapes several times of Terri.

BROWN: OK. Is that then -- I assume it's consistent with the woman who you spent a considerable amount of time with in your role as her guardian?

WOLFSON: I was appointed as her special guardian ad litem, Aaron, subsequent to the law that the Florida legislature passed that gave Governor Bush the prerogative of reinserting her tube.

And that said that a special guardian representing her personal interests, the guardian ad litem, should be appointed to review the 30,000 pages of medical and legal records and to spend time with her and to determine whether or not additional swallowing tests should be performed based on the competency and credibility of the medical and legal evidence.

BROWN: Just take a second and talk about the importance of the swallowing test.

WOLFSON: The governor asked about the swallowing test, Aaron, because there were concerns about whether or not she was capable of swallowing on her own. That was the primary question.

If she could swallow on her own, the presumption is that she would not need a feeding tube and would want to have the feeding tube removed and would want to be able to get nutrition orally.

But that raises other questions about general neurological function, whether her brain functions, whether she has cognizance awareness. The ability to swallow is a fairly complicated thing.

She swallows her saliva now. She breathes on her own now. She processes food on her own now and those are considered kind of automatic or autonomic nervous system functions that are related to two areas of her brain that are intact, her forebrain and her brain stem.

But the portion of her brain that was very severely damaged is the cerebral cortex and I know you had Ron Cranford on. You've had a bunch of other people talking about the technical medical components of that. But the thing that you observe is if someone is in a persistent vegetative state, according to the medical literature and the scientific literature, then they are not aware of their environment and they are not able to consciously interact and have consistent responses externally.

BROWN: Mr. Wolfson.

WOLFSON: And I saw those...

BROWN: I'm sorry.

WOLFSON: Yes.

BROWN: Let me ask you two questions as her guardian that seem most relevant to me in terms of what her interests are and how you answered those. You concluded that it is -- it was her wish not to live in the condition she is currently in. How did you reach that conclusion?

WOLFSON: That's not quite the conclusion I reached, Aaron. I concluded that the competent legal evidence that was provided following the rules of evidence in Florida, the rules of civil procedure in Florida and, of equal importance, the guardianship law in Florida, which was carefully crafted over more than 15 years of bipartisan political and religious involvement.

The governor brought people together. The legislature brought people together over many, many years of different interests and they crafted a guardianship law that established, among other thing, that a clinically defined persistent vegetative state was an end of life issue and that artificial feeding and nutrition were things that could be withdrawn if it was deemed in the best interest of the individual and there are several tests of the best interests.

The legal evidence that was presented that swayed the court in favor of the perception that Terri would have wanted this involved two instances at funerals of her family members, not random events, where she said, once to her husband and once to her brother-in-law and sister-in-law and these were family members, Aaron, who had been on artificial life support. They had been on respirators and she saw them that way.

And, after the funeral she said, "I don't want to be that way at all." But that doesn't take away any of the family tragedy in this matter and the difficulty for the parents and for Michael as well.

BROWN: Absolutely and I think everybody watching this, no matter sort of where they come down on this, gets that, that this is a tragedy of significant proportion for these families.

But also in this there's a sort of fact set and there are issues and there's mythology and controversy and somehow you need to wade through that, so let me try and wade through one more if I can.

Much has been made of the fact that her husband may have a conflicted interest because he's engaged now in another relationship. He has children in that other relationship. How as her guardian did you see that issue?

WOLFSON: Well, Aaron, he was appointed her guardian early on. There was no challenge to that, as there was no challenge early on to the persistent vegetative state.

And for the four years during which both he and the family, the Schindler's and Mary in particular cared for her, they really cared for her with a tremendous degree of meticulousness to the point where at one point one of the nursing facilities sought a restraining order against Michael Schiavo because he was demanding so much care and attention for Terri.

In the 15 years she's been in the facilities she's never had decubitus ulcer. She's never had a bedsore. That's pretty amazing. The evidence supports the fact that he cared for her with a high degree of concern, that there was no money, no financial interest involved.

And that it was after the judicial settlement in the malpractice lawsuit, which involved the possibility of an eating disorder that the family began to go (UNINTELLIGIBLE) and that may have had to do with the fact that after four years of being told, both the Schindler's and Mr. Schiavo, that there was no hope they accepted that.

They didn't deny it but they really didn't accept it and I can understand that. And maybe the judgment in the lawsuit, Aaron, acted as a watershed for Michael and he was able to stand back and say maybe there is no more, there is really no more hope.

And the issue of the relationship he has with another woman, I don't address that but I do feel that, you know, you can love your mother and you can love your wife and you can love your children.

Many of us have had relationships with other people very intimately. I still have great fondness for people with whom I've had intimate relationships. That doesn't diminish my love and caring and respect for them.

What's sad here is that the loving and caring family relationship that existed among these people, this was a tight family, this was a "Leave it to Beaver" kind of family, let me tell you, all of them, it imploded and it became this sad, terrible issue with enmity and now it's involved things that aren't so much related to Terri.

BROWN: Yes. On that last point I agree as well. Appreciate your time tonight, thank you Jay. Thank you.

WOLFSON: My pleasure.

BROWN: A bit later in the program one of the neurologists who played a key role in the legal battle joins us. He saw that video. He was in that video at least you heard his voice. He's a little later on. First, I want to turn quickly to Dr. Sanjay Gupta on just a couple of quick points. She's been without food and water now of any sort for almost two full weeks. In the unlikely event that she were to be reconnected to a feeding tube, could her body get back to where it was?

DR. SANJAY GUPTA, CNN MEDICAL CORRESPONDENT: Probably not at this point, Aaron. I think that she's probably had some irreversible organ damage, most specifically her kidneys. She might need dialysis or something, still survivable but irreversible damage.

BROWN: OK. Now, keeping in mind your own admonition a few minutes ago that an awful lot of doctors have made diagnoses here without actually seeing the patient except on tape, OK, let me keep that in mind and I know you will. As you looked at that tape, did you see anything, you don't have to diagnose anything, but did you see anything that we might have as lay people not seen?

GUPTA: A good point and a good preface, Aaron. One thing I saw is something that a lot of neurologists refer to as islands of consciousness. And basically what this means is not surprising to see some variations in her exam. At times she seems responsive, at times absolutely not responsive.

In this particular clip, he's asking her to actually look to her right and she's not doing that. In previous clips she appears to be smiling. Again, you don't want to diagnose anything by videotape but these islands of consciousness are very consistent with a persistent vegetative state, so nothing here sort of surprises me -- Aaron.

BROWN: It's what you would expect to see. It's a fuller picture of someone in a persistent vegetative state without absolutely concluding that that is, in fact, the condition she's in, how's that?

GUPTA: Yes, and you can't do it in so many cases, Aaron. I mean this is, you know, it's been sort of a fascinating story for a lot of us, me as a neurosurgeon as well.

I mean the underbelly of neurosciences is that it's not a perfect science. It's the legal system really that forces us to make absolutes here. Sometimes it's just hard to do. Families and patients seem to get it. It's when the legal system gets involved that makes it much more complicated trying to create absolutes where none exist -- Aaron.

BROWN: But not to be quarrelsome, though, I frequently am, there's an important issue here about whether someone is in a condition from which they could recover and that does require maybe not an absolute judgment but something approaching an absolute judgment.

GUPTA: Yes, and I think that the neurologists are probably going to be much more agreeable on her degree of recovery than on her state right now. I think most of the neurologists agree that her likelihood of recovery is very remote. When it comes to the exact diagnose, is she in a persistent vegetative state, is she in a permanent vegetative state, is she in a minimally conscious state, it's grades of difference here and obviously disagreements.

But in terms of recovery I think they've been much more conclusive, saying unlikely that she's going to have any sort of meaningful recovery, meaning she's unable to communicate, unable to understand, unable to care for herself, unable to continue life without some sort of life support -- Aaron.

BROWN: Doc, good to see you. Thank you again.

GUPTA: Thanks, Aaron.

BROWN: Sanjay Gupta in Atlanta.

David Gibbs now joins us. He's in Florida. Mr. Gibbs, as many of you know by now, is lead attorney for the Schindler family. You're going to the Supreme Court, any particular reason to believe any new issues you'll present that you think will lead to an outcome different from the one you got from the Supreme Court earlier?

DAVID GIBBS, SCHINDLER FAMILY LAWYER: We believe we do have some strong constitutional arguments and when they were put forward to the 11th Circuit Court of Appeals there was a lot of division within that court and so we're appealing it up to the Supreme Court.

Obviously, the Supreme Court is a discretionary court. They do not have to hear the case but they are at this point the court of last resort and so we have filed what we believe to be a strong argument and we're praying that the court will see the justice and the equity in taking this case and taking action to try to reinsert food and water for Terri.

BROWN: There certainly was in the 11th Circuit decisions today, disagreement, but there was also a 9-2 vote against you, which does -- look, I mean it just suggests that Republicans, Democrats, conservatives, liberals, however you want to frame this, I'm never sure in this case frankly how to frame it, see some wisdom in the way the Florida courts have handled this.

GIBBS: Well, the sad part from our perspective is Congress saw the situation and said, "We're uncomfortable with what the state courts have done and we believe Terri should get a new trial on her physical condition and what her wishes really are."

But the federal courts have said "We refuse to do that" and so the wishes of the Congress and the signature of the president effectively have been overruled and the 11th Circuit today went into some detail, one of the justices even saying we believe this is unconstitutional and it should have never happened.

And so, tragically, it looks like a battle between the judiciary, the Congress and the president is going to cause the situation to occur where instead of the law helping Terri Schiavo, she remains behind me in the hospice dehydrating and starving to death.

BROWN: David, just two more questions. Is there any point in the last, do you think in the last years, I'm not sure what number, five years maybe, where if a slightly different decision had been made we wouldn't be going through this right now?

GIBBS: Oh, absolutely. I think you have to look at two key decisions. Number one, the decision of the husband, Michael Schiavo, he could have let this all go. He could have said to the parents, "Look, I think she's a vegetable but you care so much" and I just think in kindness and decency he could have said "I want to go on with my life and let the parents take care of their daughter."

The second thing is the trial judge. He has been the finder of fact. He's been the decision maker and as he has looked at these issues we are very disappointed that with all the advances in medicine and science, all the questions as to the testimony that just simple hearsay statements would cause Terri Schiavo to be sitting behind me starving to death. It's very heartbreaking when you walk in the room and you see how healthy she was and now you see how emaciated she's become. It just seems so unnecessary.

BROWN: When you say, respectfully when you say how healthy she was you're talking about what, two weeks ago or 16 years ago?

GIBBS: No, I'm talking two weeks ago. When you would go in she was animated. She was excited. She loved her mother dearly, desperately trying to talk, listening to music and you would watch her.

And now as you go in and you see her face gaunt. Her eyes are dark. She's struggling for breath. It is unbelievably sad. I have images in my mind that I will never get out as I have watched this lovely lady that we have fought in court for her life, as I'm watching her life slowly ebb away in this barbaric fashion.

BROWN: David, we have great respect for the passion and the efforts you've put into this. It's a tough case. You've been a heck of a lawyer in it. Thank you for your time tonight.

GIBBS: Honored to be with you and, again, continue to pray for the family through these difficult hours.

BROWN: Thanks again for your time, David Gibbs who represents the Schindler family.

And when we come back we'll talk with the doctor who you saw a few minutes ago in those newly-released tapes, his impressions. He's the neurologist at the center of much of this when we continue and much more.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

DENNIS HASTERT, SPEAKER OF THE HOUSE: House come to order.

BROWN (voice-over): We know what Congress said when it passed a law in the case of Terri Schiavo but what did Congress really mean? Does it all come down to a word or two?

Also tonight a question, is there really anything new here? Answer, not in a million years or at least not in a century of media. Jeff Greenfield looks at why certain stories strike a chord.

And a world away, new measures for keeping Pope John Paul alive.

From New York and around the world this is NEWSNIGHT.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

BROWN: Dr. Ronald Cranford is a neurologist at the University of Minnesota School of Medicine who examined Terri Schiavo in 2002 and diagnosed her to be in a permanent vegetative state. He did so as a consultant for Michael Schiavo. We saw a bit of his examination in those newly-released videotapes we showed you a few moments ago.

It is fair to say that Dr. Cranford has strong views on the right to die and it is just as fair to say he is highly respected in the field of neurology and he joins us tonight from Bloomington, Minnesota and it's good to see you, sir.

CRANFORD: Thank you, Aaron. Thank you.

BROWN: I want to talk about the tapes and some slides that we saw but I want to ask one preliminary question first.

CRANFORD: Sure.

BROWN: I think people when they hear that you were a consultant for, an expert witness for the Schiavo side will believe that that colors your opinion. How do you, if you can or if you care to, assure people it does not?

CRANFORD: Well, I've testified in eight major right to die cases in the United States all the way (UNINTELLIGIBLE) the U.S. Supreme Court and my record is 100 percent that every case I've testified in, whoever I testified for, the court has agreed with my diagnosis.

I'll stand on my record. Yes, I was retained, unfortunately not for money, but retained by Mike Schiavo but I'll stand on my record and anybody that looks at my record will know that I usually try to speak the truth in terms of credibility of the diagnosis.

BROWN: And just one more quick one. Have you ever diagnosed someone to be in a permanent vegetative state and been wrong?

CRANFORD: Yes. Yes, in 1979-1980 in a legal case then. I diagnosed Sergeant David Mack (ph) as being in permanent vegetative state and 20 months later he started waking up and he regained consciousness and I've never been able to explain that case. So there's one case, a very notable case back in 1979-1980 that I was wrong and that he did wake up at 20 to 22 months after the original injury. BROWN: Does that give you any pause here?

CRANFORD: No, because in Sergeant Mack we learned one important thing that the CAT scan didn't show any change. In Terri's case the CAT scan shows massive changes after 12 years in October of 2002, so we learned a lot from Sergeant Mack in 1979 and 1980 and that benefited me in this case. Her CAT scan shows irreversible atrophy.

As I said, one of your medical commentators said a few minutes ago there's no doubt about irreversibility here, so the Mack case helped me but I was wrong in that case in 1979-1980.

BROWN: All right. Let's just look again, if we can, and I'm not sure what you're able to see but I know you know what we're looking at.

CRANFORD: Yes.

BROWN: When you were examining her -- well first in these slides. The slide on our right here to my right is her brain and that tells you what? Does that say she is in a permanent vegetative state to you?

CRANFORD: No. It does not tell you she is in a permanent vegetative state. It says essentially the cerebral cortex is destroyed that there is probably no cerebral cortex left. It shows irreversibility.

You cannot look at that CAT scan and say this is PVS versus MCS but you can look at it and say there's irreversibility. It's extensive destruction and it may be PVS. It could be MCS but it's irreversible. There's just no cerebral cortex left, Aaron, and that's what the autopsy is going to show.

BROWN: And in the video that we showed earlier where you're talking to her and Michael Schiavo is talking to her, what is it you're trying to get there? What is it you're doing?

CRANFORD: I was trying to rouse her initially and I always talk to patients and I've done this for 25 years. When I examine a patient in a vegetative state I talk to them and I always talk to them and I was trying to rouse her to get her to open her eyes and she did open her eyes and so arousal by itself means nothing. That means that her eyes open. That's perfectly consistent with a vegetative state.

BROWN: What did you see if merely looking at someone tells you much here that tells you she is in a permanent vegetative state, anything?

CRANFORD: Yes. If you look at these tapes and you look at the tapes made by the Schindler family, you see that she really doesn't track with her eyes. You have to look (UNINTELLIGIBLE) but you can see that she doesn't follow with her eyes. She doesn't fixate.

And even when she apparently smiles at her mother she's not looking at her mother. She's looking into space and except for one second or two, it appears she looks like she's looking at her face but she's really not.

So, you can look at all these tapes and see that Terri Schiavo never has the same visual pursuit. She never follows in any consistent fashion and that's a cardinal feature, Aaron, for the vegetative state.

BROWN: The Schindler family the other night mentioned to us that there are some 33 doctors I think who have filed affidavits in one form or another.

CRANFORD: Yes.

BROWN: Who disagree with your diagnosis and I suppose in at least one case with your prognosis. What's your view of them and that?

CRANFORD: Well, I think signing affidavits are cheap and I think that they looked at the videotapes and they made their own diagnosis. I think these are all pro-life people and I just don't buy that. There was credible testimony. It was the longest evidentiary history in American law before Judge Greer, six days, six different doctors testifying.

The record is overwhelmingly clear that Judge Greer believed the seven neurologists who had seen her. They did not believe Dr. Hamsfar. They did not believe Dr. Maxfield (ph) and that was Judge Greer. And so the record stands for itself and I think anybody can sign an affidavit.

You're not going to find one credible neurologist in the United States who is going to sign an affidavit off a videotape in my opinion, so I don't think they mean anything at all. You can get 50, you can get 500 pro-life doctors signing affidavits. Honestly in my opinion, Aaron, I don't think that means anything.

BROWN: Dr. Cranford, we appreciate your time tonight. Thank you, sir.

CRANFORD: My pleasure.

BROWN: Thank you, Ronald Cranford, the neurologist from the University of Minnesota who was a consultant for Michael Schiavo and did the examination back in 2002.

From the medical to the legal in this story, this tragedy has certainly come together. As we said, the Schindler family will take their case to the U.S. Supreme Court again and so there's a legal issue to try and sort through tonight.

For that we turn again to Jeffrey Toobin. What are the -- this is so sad, you know.

JEFFREY TOOBIN, CNN LEGAL ANALYST: It is really sad. It's not like handicapping a political race, yes.

BROWN: Right and so the question almost sounds dumb but the chances of the court, the Supreme Court doing something different than it did a week ago in your opinion is what?

TOOBIN: Very, very slim.

BROWN: Because?

TOOBIN: Because they have seen this case now many times. The facts have not changed. There is not total unanimity but near unanimity among the lower court judges who have heard this. They just don't get involved in cases like this.

BROWN: We found ourselves in a discussion yesterday, last night, about whether or not the Congress said to the Federal District Court, "You must do a new trial," OK and I'm taking it out of the Latin because I don't speak Latin.

TOOBIN: Right.

BROWN: Is your reading of the law that the Congress passed and the president signed that the Congress ordered that judge to hold a new trial?

TOOBIN: Yes but the definition of a new trial is not as clear as it might be. The statute is rather clear. It does say to the Federal District Court, "You need to hold a new trial."

However, in the debates on the passage of that law, several Senators made clear that you did not need to call all the witnesses, review all the medical testimony again. So, a new trial could simply be a review of the fairness of the previous trial. And that's what the judge did. And that's what the courts have approved over the last week.

BROWN: And the -- I think it was Judge Birch today?

TOOBIN: Birch, yes.

BROWN: Judge Birch today said that, in his view at least, the law that the Congress passed was unconstitutional. Unconstitutional, without necessarily agreeing with him, unconstitutional because?

TOOBIN: Of separation of powers grounds, that telling a court to do this was infringing on the judicial power under the Constitution.

You know, the Constitution sets out legislative powers, executive powers and judicial powers. And there is, of course, a lot of interplay among them. But one of the cardinal rules is respect for the coordinate branches of the government. And Judge Birch felt, and I think other judges might feel, that this law trampled on the judicial power, basically, had the executive and legislators horning in too much on the judicial power.

BROWN: And because I know these things are important to people, because people assume politics is in everything, Judge Birch, who wrote this pretty scathing opinion, was an appointee of the first President...

TOOBIN: The first President Bush.

BROWN: First President Bush.

TOOBIN: And no big liberal.

BROWN: No.

Thank you. Appreciate your coming in tonight.

Coming up ahead on the program, word of the latest medical procedure on the pope. Are there similarities in the Schiavo case? Well, there is a similarity. We'll get into that. The politics of the Schiavo case. Some Republicans fear the fallout has begun to fall.

We'll take a break first. From New York, this is NEWSNIGHT.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

BROWN: A lot of other things happened in the world today. We'll get to those about quarter to the hour. We'll check the headlines there.

A couple more Schiavo matters to deal with first. The polling in this case has been pretty telling around the country. An overwhelming number of Americans, given the choice, would not be wanting to live in the condition they perceive Terri Schiavo to be living in. A country divided in so many ways seem united on this. That has made navigating the political waters here a bit dicey.

And if there is negative fallout from congressional involvement -- and that is not a prediction -- it is almost certainly going to hit the Republicans hardest.

More now from CNN's Candy Crowley.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

CANDY CROWLEY, CNN SR. POLITICAL CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): Morning brought another distress signal from within the Republican Party. It was launched by former Senator John Danforth, an ordained Episcopalian minister.

"By a series of recent initiatives," he wrote, "Republicans have transformed our party into the political arm of conservative Christians." The public face of the March 20 bill, which elevated the Schiavo case from the state courts to the federal courts, has been almost purely Republican, the contradiction of fundamental party values duly noted on the other side.

MARSHALL WHITMAN, DEMOCRATIC LEADERSHIP COUNCIL: Well, Barry Goldwater probably would not recognize this Republican Party. The Grand Old Party has become the grand interventionist party.

CROWLEY: Democrats, meantime, seem to have handled the Schiavo case with surprising finesse, for a party that has been largely inept in the politics of cultural and religion issues. Early on, their first move was to get out of the line of fire.

REP. TOM DELAY (R-TX), MAJORITY LEADER: Those senators responsible for blocking our bill yesterday afternoon, Senators Boxer, Senator Wyden, and Senator Levin, have put Mrs. Schiavo's life at risk to prove a point, an unprecedented profile of cowardice.

CROWLEY: Within 24 hours, the rhetoric was dialed back.

DELAY: Let me just take a minute to say, I greatly appreciate the Democrats in the Senate for working with the leadership in the Senate and facilitating this quickly.

CROWLEY: Tom DeLay's pivot came after Democratic leaders helped put together a compromise, allowing a vote on the Schiavo bill, ensuring that the death of a woman would not be laid at the Democrats' door. Step two, step back, let Republicans take the microphones.

WHITMAN: Democrats have a certain sensitivity on the issue of abortion and the entire life spectrum issues. And they didn't essentially have confidence to get involved in this issue. And they felt at the moment, they better -- left the turf to the Republicans.

CROWLEY: The result, though Democrats helped write the Schiavo bill and many voted for it, no one' is blaming them for overreaching. Maryland Democrat Al Wynn voted with Republicans, though it's hard to tell.

REP. ALBERT WYNN (D), MARYLAND: Most of us felt the issue should not have been before Congress. That's what the American people think. That's what the most Democrats think. However, once it was before us on the floor, it ceased being a partisan issue and people basically voted their conscience. In my mind, I voted to err on the side of life.

CROWLEY: Maybe the Democrats acted out of uncertainty, rather than strategy. But it's working for them.

Candy Crowley, CNN, Washington.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

BROWN: Just ahead on the program tonight, a report from Rome on the health of the pope.

A break first. This is NEWSNIGHT on CNN.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

BROWN: One protester who has been demanding Terri Schiavo's feeding tube be reinserted holds up a sign that reads: "They removed Terri's feeding tube. Is the pope next?"

Today, the Vatican confirmed that a feeding tube has been inserted, inserted through the pope's nose. But there are big differences in these two cases.

Here's our Rome bureau chief, Alessio Vinci.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

ALESSIO VINCI, CNN ROME BUREAU CHIEF (voice-over): Vatican officials say the nasal feeding tube is a temporary measure meant to increase the pope's intake of calories and to help speed the pope's recovery. They insist it is not an emergency procedure to keep the pope alive.

Nobody at the Vatican is drawing parallels between Terri Schiavo and the frail condition of the pope. And Vatican analysts agree the two cases are quite different.

JOHN ALLEN, CNN VATICAN ANALYST: So, the pope is not unconscious. The pope continues to be lucid, therefore, we have to assume is calling the shots for himself about his course of treatment. Obviously, Terri Schiavo is not. Secondly, this is not immediately life-threatening in the case of the pope. In the case of Schiavo, obviously, when the water and nutrition is withdrawn, she dies. The case with the pope, this does not appear to be that kind of situation.

VINCI: Pope John Paul II himself wrote on the subject a year ago, saying that doctors have a moral duty to preserve life and that "The administration of water and food, even when provided by artificial means, always represents a natural way of preserving life, not a medical procedure."

Church officials say they are against keeping a person alive at all costs, especially if medical intervention prolongs the patient's agony. But the Vatican insists, artificially feeding and hydrating a person in a vegetative state does not constitute aggressive therapy. And because Terri Schiavo has not been pronounced brain-dead, Vatican officials say she must be kept alive.

CARDINAL JAVIER LOZANO BARRAGAN, PONTIFICAL COUNCIL FOR HEALTH: The end of the life is a question that is only in the hands of God. This is our belief. It is not something that must be in the hands of politicians or in the hands of the physicians, but in the hands of God only.

VINCI: But the debate over Schiavo's fate has once more raised questions that no one inside or outside the Vatican has answered. What would happen should the pope become incapacitated? Should he one day require artificial means to breathe, eat and drink, for how long should these machines be kept on? And who would make the decision to pull the plug?

FATHER BRIAN JOHNSTONE, MORAL THEOLOGIAN: There is no provision in canon law for dealing with a situation where the pope himself simply is not in a position to make decisions. So , that would cause considerable difficulty.

VINCI (on camera): Combining the dilemma of an incapacitated pope with the ability of modern medicine to keep a person alive for a long time has led some to suggest future popes should be bound by age limit, a proposal senior Vatican officials here are dismissing, saying it is God who chooses the pope, and only God can decide when his term expires.

Alessio Vinci, CNN, Rome.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

BROWN: Still ahead tonight, more on those newly released images of Terri Schiavo. We'll show you those in a moment.

We'll take a break first. This is NEWSNIGHT.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

BROWN: Just in the last moment, the legal road, at least through the federal courts, for the Schindler family appears to have come to an end. The U.S. Supreme Court now refuses to hear the Schindler family appeal, an appeal they hoped would save their daughter's life, or at least get the feeding tube reinserted. Again, the U.S. Supreme Court, for the second time in a week, has refused to hear that appeal.

We have more on the tapes that were released tonight. These are tapes that had never been shown outside of court until now. We'll get to those in a moment.

But, first, coming up at about a quarter to the hour, other headlines of other stories that made news today. Thomas Roberts is in Atlanta.

Good to see you.

ROBERTS: Nice to see you, too, Aaron. Thanks.

The State Department says an American citizen has been kidnapped in Iraq, along with three Rumanian journalist. Now, we don't know if the American being held is one of the hostages shown in this video that aired on Al-Jazeera Wednesday.

A sheriff's deputy requested extra security at an Atlanta courthouse for Brian Nichols' rape trial shortly before a judge and court reporter were shot to death there. Lieutenant Gary Reid was in charge of security for courtrooms on the same floor of the Fulton County Courthouse where the killings began March 11. Reid had been scheduled to be in Judge Rowland Barnes' courtroom the day of the shootings, but was out on an excused absence.

The psychologist who helped launch the current child molestation case against Michael Jackson took the stand in the pop star's trial. Dr. Stan Katz says it's extremely rarely for children over the age of 5 to make a false allegation of molestation. Katz reported to authorities the accuser told him during a therapy session he was molested by Jackson.

Well, a new study suggests that the people at risk of developing strokes caused by narrowed arteries in the brain should consider aspirin instead of a common anti-clotting drug. Researchers say patients on the blood thinner warfarin suffered a higher death rate than those who took regular strength aspirin. So, Aaron, before anybody changes, best advice, probably check with their doctor -- back to you in New York.

BROWN: Thank you very much.

Earlier in the program, we showed newly released portions of video from Terri Schiavo's bedside; 11 reels were shot several years ago, nine made public tonight. Two are still under seal of the court.

CNN's Randi Kaye has been working her way through them. And she joins us again from Dunedin, Florida -- Randi.

KAYE: Aaron, tonight, we were able to get through about two hours of this video.

It's video from several different doctors examining Terri Schiavo in her hospice room, much of this video never before released. You're looking at some video there of Terri Schiavo with her mom. You can see she's responding to her, seems to be aware that she's in the room. But take a look at this.

This is some video of Michael Schiavo, a rare look at Michael Schiavo in the hospice room with his wife.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

MICHAEL SCHIAVO, HUSBAND OF TERRI SCHIAVO: Look at me over here, Theresa. I'm over here. I'm over to your left -- or your right. I'm sorry.

DR. WILLIAM HAMMESFAHR, NEUROLOGIST: Try it again.

SCHIAVO: Teresa, turn your head over here, sweetheart. Come on. Come on. Look at me over here.

HAMMESFAHR: Now, do both the -- say -- get in front of her and say, use visual and the auditory. In other words, get right in front of her, and say, follow you.

SCHIAVO: Theresa, follow me over here. Theresa, come on.

HAMMESFAHR: Now, follow to the right. Go back.

SCHIAVO: Theresa, come on to the right. Come on.

HAMMESFAHR: To her right, I'm sorry. Go.

SCHIAVO: Come on to your right.

HAMMESFAHR: No, you go to her right.

SCHIAVO: Theresa.

HAMMESFAHR: OK. Keep going to the right.

SCHIAVO: Theresa, over here. Come on. We're over here. (END VIDEOTAPE)

KAYE: So there you have it. That is some of that never-before- released, never-before-seen video from the court here in Florida, in Clearwater, a rare look at Michael Schiavo getting no response from his wife in the hospice room. Before that, you did see Terri Schiavo appearing to respond to her mom, so two very different sides, Aaron, of Terri Schiavo there in the same hospice room.

BROWN: Just quickly, the other voice in the room is a neurologist?

KAYE: That is a neurologist. That is Dr. William Hammesfahr. He was in there with Michael Schiavo, and also with Mary Schindler, Terri Schiavo's mom. And he was representing the Schindler family in that court hearing back in 2002.

BROWN: Randi, thank you -- Randi Kaye again tonight.

Morning papers are just ahead. We'll take a break first. This is NEWSNIGHT on CNN.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

(ROOSTER CROWING)

BROWN: And a day, legally, at least, that started in Atlanta, the 11th Circuit Court of Appeals, has ended tonight at the U.S. Supreme Court for the Schindler family and Terri Schiavo.

Joe Johns is in Washington -- Joe.

JOE JOHNS, CNN CAPITOL HILL CORRESPONDENT: Aaron, essentially without comment, once again, the United States Supreme Court tonight declining to hear this latest appeal from the parents of Terri Schiavo. Once again, it was referred through Justice Anthony Kennedy, once again, referred to the full court, the full court deciding not to hear this latest appeal. By my count, six appeals now, the United States Supreme Court has decided not to hear in the Terri Schiavo case -- Aaron.

BROWN: And we don't know in this sort of matter what the vote was at all, do we?

JOHNS: No, we do not. All we know is that it was referred to the full court. You can assume there were some discussions, but there's no indication of a vote, what kind of a breakdown there was and what grounds they decided this on.

BROWN: Joe, thank you very much -- Joe Johns in Washington.

The U.S. Supreme Court has refused to hear the Schiavo case, which now appears legally in the federal system to be at an end.

A quick look at morning papers after the break.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

(ROOSTER CROWING)

BROWN: OK, time to check morning papers around the country and around the world.

We begin with "The Washington Post." I don't think we've ever gotten "The Post" on time, but we do today. A good story at the top there. "Army Vehicle Called Faulty. Transport Deployed in Iraq Put Troops at Risk, Study Says." We'll be chasing that, I suspect. And a story that appears in one form or another in lots of papers, "Feeding Tube Raises Questions of Prolonging Pope's Life," a truly painful picture of Pope John Paul yesterday or today. You do these papers, you get confused.

"The Washington Times." This is the paper friendly to the president, OK? "Bush Plunge in Polls Tied to Domestic Issue. Foreign Policy Approval Remains Higher." But the president approval rating is down, I think to the lowest point in his presidency.

"Philadelphia Inquirer" puts the pope's condition on the front page. "New Worry As Pope Struggles," a series of pictures taken of the pope in Rome today. "His Feeding Tube Raises the Issue of Ability to Lead." I suspect this is a story we're going to spend a lot of time on.

"The Rocky Mountain News," out in Denver, Colorado. "IRS Blitzes Barnett." This guy has got nothing but trouble. He's the football coach at Colorado University. I mean, there have been sex scandals, recruiting scandals. Now there's a tax thing going on. Yikes.

How we doing on time? Twenty seconds.

OK, "The Chattanooga Times Free Press" leads local. "On Shelf, Behind Counter, New Law Restricts Access to Meth Ingredients."

The weather in Chicago tomorrow is "shabby."

We're not, but we are back tomorrow. We hope you are, too, 10:00 Eastern time. Until then, good night for all of us.

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