TALLAHASSEE, Fla. - Embarking on what may be a politically risky path, Gov. Jeb Bush reopened Terri Schiavo's case yesterday by asking a prosecutor to review a perceived delay by her husband in seeking medical help after her collapse 15 years ago.
Two days after an autopsy appeared to put allegations against Michael Schiavo to rest, Bush asked Pinellas-Pasco State Attorney Bernard McCabe to look into what the governor called an unexplained 40- to 70-minute gap between Terri Schiavo's collapse and her husband's call to 911.
Calling the request an "outrage," Michael Schiavo accused the governor of attempting to deflect attention from the autopsy findings, which concluded that his wife was not strangled or beaten at the time of her collapse, as her parents had alleged. Why she collapsed remains undetermined.
"I have consistently said over the years that I didn't wait but ran to call 911 after Terri collapsed," Schiavo said in a statement released by his attorney. "I wasn't wearing a watch or looking at a clock and I have stated in my sworn testimony that 'I'm not good with dates and times.'"
The governor said he contacted the state attorney based on two statements Schiavo made about the time of his wife's collapse in the early morning hours of Feb. 25, 1990.
In a 2003 interview on Larry King Live, Schiavo said he heard his wife fall to the floor around 4:30 a.m., the time he told the medical examiner's office. During the 2000 trial on his wife's end-of-life wishes, he said he heard a "thud" and found his wife in the hallway about 5 a.m.
The autopsy report said paramedics weren't summoned to the Schiavos' apartment in St. Petersburg until 5:40 a.m. They arrived 12 minutes later to begin resuscitation efforts. "In light of this new information, I urge you to take a fresh look at this case without any preconceptions as to the outcome," Bush wrote.
Bruce Bartlett, McCabe's chief assistant, said his office would look into what he called "definitely a discrepancy with the time." The autopsy made no mention of the discrepancy.
Terri Schiavo died March 31 - 13 days after her feeding tube was withdrawn under a court order won by her husband. After a seven-year legal battle pitting him against his in-laws, the courts said his wife was in a vegetative state, had no chance of recovering and didn't want to be kept alive by artificial means.
The Orlando Sentinel is a Tribune Publishing newspaper.