Jeff Johnson | Senior Staff Writer | Thursday, May 05, 2005
Pinellas-Pasco, County Circuit Court Judge George Greer was at the center of the Schiavo controversy up until the moment of the 41-year-old Florida woman's court-ordered death. He angered disability rights advocates with the final ruling to remove Terri's feeding tube, because, unlike previous orders, that one also prohibited anyone from offering Terri nutrition or hydration by mouth.
But Alan Scott Miller, a member of the West Pasco Bar Association, told the Tampa Tribune that Greer's "professionalism and integrity was punctuated by the way he handled the Schiavo case.
"He's getting this award for all of his contributions on the bench, not just the Schiavo case," Miller told the newspaper. "It's like a lifetime achievement award for an actor."
Supporters of Terri's family argue that at least two of Greer's decisions in the case bring into question the very objectivity and professionalism for which Greer will be honored.
As Cybercast News Service previously reported, Greer dismissed testimony by one of the witnesses who cast doubt on Michael Schiavo's claim that his wife would not want to receive life-prolonging medical intervention. Diane Meyer, one of Terri's life-long friends, told Greer that Terri had expressed her disagreement with the decision of Karen Ann Quinlan's parents to remove their comatose daughter from life support in a highly publicized "right-to-die" case in the 1970s and 1980s.
"There was an incident when I told a poor joke about Karen Ann Quinlan. I remember distinctly because Terri never lost her temper with me. This time she did," Meyer testified in 2002. "She told me that she did not approve of what was going on or what happened in the Karen Ann Quinlan case."
Meyer told the court that the conversation had taken place, "in the summer of 1982."
Greer ruled that, because Meyer spoke of the conversation in the present tense, she must have been mistaken about the date. He surmised that the comments must have been made in the mid-1970s, when Terri would have been only 11 or 12 years old.
"The first quote involved a bad joke and used the verb 'is.' The second quote involved the response from Terri Schiavo, which used the word 'are,'" Greer wrote in his decision. "The court is mystified as to how these present tense verbs would have been used some six years after the death of Karen Ann Quinlan."
Greer subsequently ruled that the statement that she "would not want to be kept alive artificially" - which Terri allegedly made in the presence of her husband, brother-in-law and brother-in-law's wife - was Terri's only "adult comment" on the matter.
But the judge based his decision on the assumption that Quinlan died shortly after being taken off the respirator. In fact, after Quinlan's parents removed the respirator in 1976, the woman began breathing on her own, and did not die until June 11, 1985.
An attorney for Terri's family filed a motion with the court asking Greer to reverse himself because the error gave improper credibility to the claim that Terri had expressed a wish not to be kept alive "artificially." Greer refused.
Pamela Hennessy, spokesperson for the Terri Schindler-Schiavo Foundation, told bCybercast News Service that it is difficult to express her feelings about the thought of Greer being honored for such decisions.
"I just find it so very disheartening that a professional bar would overlook the law in order to make nice with a local judge," she said.
In response to the pending award, Fr. Frank Pavone, national director of Priests for Life, reiterated his accusation that Greer is "a murderer.
"Terri was not dying until she stopped receiving food and water. Once deprived of that sustenance, she died," Pavone said in a statement. "It does not require any legal or medical expertise to recognize that as murder.
"Nobody who has lost the basic capability to understand that should be honored," Pavone concluded.
However, Joan Nelson Hook, president of the West Pasco Bar Association, told the Tampa Tribune that she did not "think anyone could ever say [Greer's] decisions were unlawful.
"They were very thoughtful. His decisions were meticulous," she told the newspaper.
Greer has defended his decisions in the Schiavo case as within the scope of Florida law.
A small group of pro-life advocates was planning to demonstrate outside the 6 p.m. ceremony honoring Greer in New Port Richey, Fla..
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