Florida Loses Schiavo Appeal; Supreme Court Refuses to Reinstate "Terri's Law"; Her Fate in Hands of State Judge

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Byline: J. TAYLOR RUSHING, Capital Bureau Chief

TALLAHASSEE -- The U.S. Supreme Court on Monday refused to hear the Terri Schiavo case, prompting observers and state leaders to concede this will likely end the legal tug-of-war over the brain-damaged Florida woman.

The justices' decision does not automatically allow the 41-year-old woman to be removed from the tube keeping her alive in a Pinellas County hospice. But her fate now goes back before a state judge, George Greer, who already ruled last October that she could be disconnected from her feeding tube and allowed to die.

Justices did not comment in rejecting an appeal from Gov. Jeb Bush, who was trying to overturn a 7-0 ruling by the Florida Supreme Court last September. The Florida court had struck down a law Bush had rushed through the Legislature in October 2003 to aid Schiavo, who has been severely brain damaged since 1990 and without a living will.

The decision was widely expected.

Bush said it was not a political defeat but acknowledged his authority was legally limited.

"I don't take it as a rebuke," he told reporters in Tallahassee. "We were overly optimistic at least they would take up the case. We were hopeful they would, but I'm not surprised they didn't . . . We had looked at many options, some of which had to be discarded because they weren't in my authority. And that authority has been defined now by the courts. So we move on from that."

Schiavo is being battled over by her husband Michael Schiavo, who says he is following her wishes to be allowed to die, and her parents, Robert and Mary Schindler, who say she can recover and should be kept alive. By October 2003, a series of lower court rulings had allowed Michael Schiavo to remove the tube, prompting her parents and supporters to lobby for help to keep her alive.

Sen. Jim King, R-Jacksonville, helped Bush draft "Terri's Law" while Senate president but later described it as one of the biggest mistakes of his 19-year legislative career.

"At the time we wrote this . . . we did what we thought was in the best interest of Ms. Schiavo based on the information we were given and the limited time we had to make a life-or-death decision," King said in a statement.

Ken Connor, a 1994 gubernatorial candidate who is now an attorney in Leesburg, Va., represented Bush pro bono in the case and called Monday's decision "a judicial death warrant."

"From a legal remedy standpoint, it's now at an end for the governor," Connor said. "Terri's Law has been stricken . …

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