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Jesse Jackson Gets Involved in Schiavo Case

Aired March 30, 2005 - 14:30   ET


CAROL LIN, CNN ANCHOR: Want to bring you the latest now in the Terri Schiavo case. We're still waiting to hear from the 11th District Court of Appeals right here in Atlanta on a new appeal by Terri Schiavo's parents. And there is some maneuvering going down in Clearwater, Florida.
Reverend Jesse Jackson has met with Governor Jeb Bush in Florida to find out what, if anything, can be done with the state legislature to intervene in this case. The Reverend Jackson joins me now on the telephone. Reverend Jackson, what, if anything, were you able to accomplish in your meetings with Governor Jeb Bush and some of the state legislators?

REV. JESSE JACKSON, ACTIVIST: We're still hoping against hope. Governor Bush is exhausting all legal remedies. He (INAUDIBLE) before the appellate court to provide emergency medical service, and so far that has not been accepted. The senate president has said that if the bill that's -- if somebody who voted against the last bill called for reconsideration, he would consider it. But no one did, and that bill (INAUDIBLE) passed, in other words -- hello?

LIN: Yes, I can hear you, Reverend. Go ahead.

JACKSON: Would not have addressed the Terri Schiavo case in the first place.

LIN: Um hum.

JACKSON: There's some new...

LIN: You're talking about -- Reverend, I just want to catch people up. You're talking about legislation that they were considering down in Florida to make it so that if you didn't have a living will in specific stated -- you know, specifically stated that you wanted to be disconnected in these circumstances, that you would remain on some form of life support. That bill failed.

JACKSON: Yes. There's a senator -- Senator Bullett (ph) -- is looking at some language that has some appeal. Patients without a written declaration stating otherwise cannot be denied hydration or nutrition administered by mouth. Now, she's going to surface that language up. It is much more narrow than the language was the last time and addresses Terri's situation.

But in the meantime, while the debate rages on, Terri, being denied water and food for 13 days has now been starved and dehydrated to death. That's the sense of agony in this place today. The appeal made by Mrs. Schindler last night to Michael was the most direct way to address the emergency in the 99th hour. If he would respond to her appeal, that could go a long way. But even then, the courts now, in fact, have guardianship jurisdiction. They've hardened their position, so there's a lot of layers have to be removed for us to get a breakthrough, Carol.

LIN: All right. Well, Reverend Jackson, I do have to say the doctors would not characterize Terri's condition as being starved to death, that they have removed artificial hydration and nutrition.

JACKSON: Well, Carol, some doctors do and some doctors don't. If on the one hand we have food and water, on the other hand, she does not have the need and we don't give it to her, that is -- denial of access to food and water is starvation and dehydration.

LIN: Well, Reverend Jackson, let me ask you this. Since you're so close to the parents at this point, what do they tell you about her condition? I know you tried to get in to see her and you could not. So what have they told you about how close Terri Schiavo may physically be at this point to dying?

JACKSON: Well, clearly vital organs still exist. And she's going through some vital bodily functions. But clearly, as you end the 13th day without food and water, she begins to sink because she is being deprived of that which is necessary, called sustenance. She does not have sustenance, and you cannot survive very long without sustenance. You will trigger a trigger failure -- a kidney failure, a heart attack, and then death. Usually when people die, it's beyond our control. In this instance, it is in our hands to give her food and water, and we refuse to do so. That's what makes this such a moral and ethical travesty.

LIN: Well, Reverend Jackson, do you sense, in your conversations at all with the Schindlers, that they are in any way mentally, physically, emotionally prepared in any way, have you given them counsel in accepting their daughter's passing?

JACKSON: Well, I've only said to them that we're looking at a cruel hand of fate. You fight fate with faith. And the god we serve, nothing is too hard for God. So though it's dark, hold on somehow until the morning comes.

LIN: So how would you describe their mood at this point?

JACKSON: They are sad, and yet they're resilient. They are fortunately people of faith. But the cruel hand of fate and this is a political fate, dealing them some difficult blows. And while the law may be correct I argue again that law without mercy is cruel and cold. Law must be informed by mercy to bring about justice. Right now in my judgment, Terri has been denied the mercy that leads to justice.

LIN: Reverend Jesse Jackson, thank you very much for giving us an update on your meetings with the governor and state legislators down there in Florida. Reverend Jackson will be Candy Crowley's guest today on INSIDE POLITICS at 3:30 Eastern, 12:30 Pacific right after this program, LIVE FROM, right here on CNN -- Miles. O'BRIEN: First Lady Laura Bush says she feels sorry for Terri Schiavo's family because the debate is so public. She talked about the case on the way to Afghanistan, and she gave her take on the role of the federal government.


LAURA BUSH, FIRST LADY: I don't know. I think you have to, you know -- I just feel like the federal government has to be involved, that it's a life issue, that really does require the government to get involved.


O'BRIEN: So should the federal government be involved in deciding whether Terri Schiavo lives or dies? Let's ask Bob Barr, former Georgia congressman, CNN contributor, well-known Libertarian. I underscore that because Libertarians don't like it when the federal government oversteps its bounds.

BOB BARR, LIBERTARIAN: Well, and Republicans used to not like so also. This case is really making some strange political and sociopolitical bedfellows.

O'BRIEN: Well, explain why there is such a press on Congress, on the federal arm of the government, to get involved here. Where is that coming from?

BARR: Well, it's coming from people that don't like the decisions of the court system already. Even though they're really with the state court system, Miles, there has been no evidence whatsoever that the Florida courts and the Florida legislature didn't do their job. It didn't render the decision that many Republicans and conservatives want so they have gone against the grain of their traditional philosophy and now urged, even the First Lady, urging the federal government to become involved simply because it's a, quote, life issue.

O'BRIEN: So really, when you define this group of people, you really can't define them in the narrowest sense as conservatives. These are people with a religious bent who are pursuing a religious goal at any cost.

BARR: Well, but they, generally speaking, are Republican and generally conservatives. There is certainly a minority in that group such as myself who are conservatives, but who are trying to be consistent and respectful of conservative principles such as respect for the court system, respect for federalism, and respect for separation of powers.

O'BRIEN: Ultimately, this could create a real split within the GOP.

BARR: It has the earmarkings of that. And where that will sort of play itself out, it's hard to see. Because already, I think, the Republicans are realizing that they might not have made the wisest political decision in interjecting Congress into the middle of this whole thing.

O'BRIEN: All right. Many of these conservatives we're speaking of, these religious conservatives, were emboldened by the election of George Bush, because it has been widely written, widely said, that they were the key factor in all of this. Are they, perhaps, emboldened by that, overreaching, and what is the potential backlash?

BARR: The potential backlash is primarily from other conservatives, not Democrats so much. They're not going to vote for conservative Republicans probably anyway. But the real risk is, one, that the Republicans in the Congress will now be so far drawn off of their message, leaving the substantive issues of Social Security and tax reform on the table, that they will get people upset because they won't be following a clear, consistent, substantive agenda. And I think there will be a backlash there.

There will also be a backlash because, coming on the heels of the fiscal irresponsibility of this administration so far, now to sort of say, well, we're not even going to be conservative in our approach to government really is going to alienate a lot of those traditional conservative voters.

O'BRIEN: Interesting points. Bob Barr, thank you so much for joining us. Always appreciate it. Carol.

LIN: All right. Still waiting on any word out of the 11th Circuit Court of Appeals in Atlanta on the Schiavo case.

But we have other stories to tell you about, including one about the psychologists -- or some reforms actually that are needed to make absent parents accountable for child support payments. But a case in New Mexico has officials scratching their heads. The courts there ordered a man to make child support payments for a daughter who did not exist. Our Sean Callebs untangles this complicated story of deception.


SEAN CALLEBS, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): This is Viola Trevino, dashing into an Albuquerque, New Mexico, courtroom in December of 2004 with a small child in tow. It was another skirmish in a long battle over child support payments with her ex-husband.

It started in 1999. As their divorce became final that year, Trevino said she was pregnant and that the father was her soon to be ex-husband, Steve Barreras.

STEVE BARRERAS, PRISON GUARD: I couldn't believe it at first, you know?

CALLEBS: Barreras, a prison guard, agreed to talk only if we masked his appearance for his own security. Medical records show he had a vasectomy two years before Viola Trevino said he made her pregnant. Still, in 2002, a court ruled against Barreras and forced him to pay more than $20,000 in child support. Trevino was a very convincing witness. UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: She's very good at what she does. And she makes people believe her.

CALLEBS: Shelly (ph) is Steve Barreras' current wife. For years the two battled bureaucracy without success. Court records show that Trevino presented a birth certificate, Social Security number, baptismal records, and two DNA tests that showed Barreras was the father of a young girl named Stephanie Renee.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: No one would believe us with two DNA documents. No one would believe us.

CALLEBS: They sought help from New Mexico's Child Support Enforcement Division. The response, a one paragraph statement. "We cannot help you any further in getting a copy of the birth certificate, but your daughter does exist, as I am sure you already knew."

BETINA GONZALES MCCRACKEN, NEW MEXICO HUMAN SERVICES DEPT.: We felt that that was sufficient evidence to say that there was a child and that child indeed was the child of Mr. Barreras.

CALLEBS: Finally, this December Steve and Shelly (ph) won a round. The courts demanded Trevino produce the child who by now should have been 5 years old.

That's when she came to court accompanied by this child. But the little girl wasn't five. She was two. Her name isn't Stephanie. It's Delilah (ph).

And it turned out that she wasn't Steve Barreras' child. She wasn't even Viola Trevino's child. Trevino had found the little girl with her grandmother on an Albuquerque street and lured them to the courthouse with the promise of seeing Santa Clause and $50 for presents. Once outside the courthouse, Trevino grabbed the child, dashed inside, leaving the confused grandmother in the street.

GEORGIA CHAVEZ, GRANDMOTHER: Oh, Mary of god, I thought I'd never see my granddaughter again. That was the most scariest thing that ever happened to me.

CALLEBS: But Mrs. Chavez did follow her granddaughter to the courtroom, and finally Trevino admitted the 2-year-old little girl was not Stephanie Renee. The judge ruled she had seen enough.

JUDGE LINDA VANZI, NEW MEXICO DISTRICT COURT: There is no child named Stephanie Renee Trevino.

BARRERAS: It was a great burden taken off of me because, for so long, we had gone into courts trusting, thinking that the courts are going to take care of this problem because, you know, that's what the courts do. We trust in justice here.

CALLEBS: Court records show Trevino made the whole story up. The documents faked, even the DNA information phony. (on camera): The case has now made it on to the radar of New Mexico Governor Bill Richardson. He says it is unbelievable that one person could spin such an apparent web of deceit and deception. Richardson is now demanding to know how state officials were duped.

GOV. BILL RICHARDSON (D), NEW MEXICO: This is the most egregious example of a bureaucracy abuse and negligence that I've ever heard of.

CALLEBS (voice-over): Because of Trevino's ability to manipulate the system, the governor has launched an investigation. Richardson says it will soon be state policy that child welfare employees sign affidavits stating they have seen the children they work with. Steve and Shelly (ph) are relieved and are now planning several lawsuits.

Trevino has an attorney as well who says that she never said Barreras fathered a child, the courts had it wrong. But now she claims her ex-husband hasn't paid enough alimony.

Sean Callebs, CNN, Albuquerque, New Mexico.



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MILES O'BRIEN, CNN ANCHOR: Sorry to interrupt that report from Veronica De La Cruz, but we were talking just a few moments ago, Carol was, with Reverend Jesse Jackson. This is tape that is coming in from Tallahassee, even as we speak. Let's listen in as he and Jeb Bush, the governor of Florida, brief reporters.


REV. JESSE JACKSON, ACTIVIST: ... because we are watching a woman be starved and dehydrated to death. Somewhere in the gap, on the one hand, we have food and medicine. On the other hand, she needs food and medicine, and we will not give it to her. The -- you cannot do this to animals. And it's illegal to do this to animals, to starve animals to death.

Today, as divine intervention would have it, the pope is on a feeding tube. And no one's going to be tempted to remove his feeding tube, and they shouldn't. I've been in cases, as a minister, where people had an advanced state of cancer. And they're on Demerol, with the painkiller, because they were hurting and they slipped into a coma, and then maybe even more Demerol. At some point, their pulse begins to go down. My sister-in law just last year and another friend a few months ago. That time, you pull the tube, and within minutes, they die. And they close their eyes, and you pray.

In this case, they pull all the tubes. Now we are hearing law without mercy. Mercy must inform law to bring about justice. It is merciless to simply wait until she dies by denying her food and water. And while I appreciate the governor's appeals for emergency medical assistance, Mrs. Schindler's appeal last night was so compelling as a mother, I can understand as a father and as a minister the husband's crisis and his pain.

It is a very difficult decision on Michael. But then to just decide to give her back to her parents would cut through all the politics and all the court appeals. If he just made that one moral decision to respond to the mother's appeal, then at least the parents would have the satisfaction that they would have done the best that they could have done. I mean, time is running out because dehydration is setting in. But we have some moral obligation to do the best that we can.

And last, I would say that those who embraced Terri so much as a person cannot reduce her to an in-all symbol or trophy. It raises the bigger issue of long-term health care. And this issue is going to increase as our population grows older, as people need more medical services, and somehow we're being healed by her strifes because her dying is saving a lot of people. It's raising the issue of long-term medical care to the highest level, perhaps ever.

I hope that those who are passionate about Terri will do all that we can do and not give up hope at all. We prayed to God for a miracle. We pray for legislative legal action. We pray that Michael will see the wisdom and just changing his mind and enabling Terri to have these last days or last hours of the relief of food and medicine. That is humane, it is a moral appeal we all make to him. Thank you.

QUESTION: Governor Bush, what was your conservation like?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: The governor's got a press conference at 1:30.


O'BRIEN: All right. There you saw it, as the tape fed in from our affiliate WTSB -- TSP, I should say, out of Tampa. The Reverend Jesse Jackson, along with Governor Jeb Bush. I think they did some more Q & A. Let's listen a little bit more. This is not live, but new video as it comes in raw. We apologize for that.


JACKSON: ... our point of view. Or in the session in the Congress, for example. Congressman Jackson and others amend their vote, appealed for the feeding tube to be restored. As we're looking to get involved personally, because it is an intensely family matter at the end of the day -- and I don't want to see that seen, in some sense, imposing my interests over their own strategy to save their daughter or their wife, as the case may have been. So when Mrs. Schindler called me, I felt relieved at the opportunity to be by the side of the family, to pray with them physically. But we've been working on this matter for some time now.

QUESTION: Reverend Jackson, have you any plans to try to negotiate with Michael Schiavo or contact him?


O'BRIEN: All right. As Jesse Jackson continues his discussion with reporters, we will monitor that, of course, for you. Jesse Jackson will appear on "INSIDE POLITICS" about 40 minutes from now. Judy Woodruff's "INSIDE POLITICS," today with Candy Crowley. You'll hear extensively from Jesse Jackson as he continues his crusade on behalf of Terri Schiavo's parents, Bob and Mary Schindler, there in Tallahassee, having met with Florida governor Jeb Bush, who very recently has said that he has run out of options within his power as the chief executive of the sunshine state -- Carol.



O'BRIEN: Let's talk about hydrogen vehicles.

LIN: Let's.

O'BRIEN: You know, I heard...

LIN: Right up your alley.

O'BRIEN: They were trying to come up with some names for the cars. One of the names they just counted, Susan Lisovicz, was the Chevy Hindenburg. Bad idea. Bad idea, right?

SUSAN LISOVICZ, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Yes. Yes, I think that would be a very bad idea. And I had not heard that name floated around, Miles.

O'BRIEN: Yes. Oh, the humanity.

LISOVICZ: Yes, oh the humanity of it all. We do have some news, though, on hydrogen and hybrid cars. Both G.M. and DaimlerChrysler have signed deals with the Department of Energy to develop cars that run on hydrogen fuel cells. G.M., the world's largest carmaker, plans to spend about $44 million to deploy a fleet of 40 hydrogen-powered vehicles to major cities to showcase new technology. The Energy Department will kick in another $44 million as part of the deal. DaimlerChrysler plans to invest more than $70 million in the partnership.

Rather than gasoline, fuel cell vehicles run on the energy produced when hydrogen and oxygen are mixed. The only byproduct of a fuel cell is water. The lack of refueling stations have made fuel- cell-powered vehicles unmarketable. The government is addressing that issue. Shell plans to build hydrogen refueling stations in California, Washington, New York and other East Coast cities.


O'BRIEN: All right. Have you heard the latest buzz on Britney?

LIN: So we are told.

O'BRIEN: I'm just so excited to hear it. Could be pregnant.

Inquiring minds want to know, along with the rest of the tabloid media world. So we here at CNN will give you the details and much more in the next hour of LIVE FROM.

O'BRIEN: She'll be a great mom, don't you think?


LIN: Here's what's happening right "Now in the News."

President Bush lands in Iowa with a challenge on Social Security. Mr. Bush says politicians will pay a political price if they balk at shoring up the popular retirement program. His opponents say the president's privatization plan would only make the current problem worse.

Now if you're a worker who's 40 or older, you're covered by a ruling on age discrimination by the U.S. Supreme Court. Today, the high court made it easier to sue an employer. It said it doesn't even matter if the alleged discrimination is intentional or not.


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