Terri Schiavo and Dred Scott

Musing Minds looks into the legal issues regarding Terri’s case, and finds out that

In seeking guidance regarding the ending of a human life, the court looked to how another court weighed the harm that would result from the improper sale of a petroleum product.

And further,

the court denied the stay knowing with absolute certainty based on the laws of science that Terri would be dead long before any trial could be heard, and thus practically denied the trial contrary to the clear spirit and intent of the legislation.

You’ll want to spend some time there.

Musing Minds links to Andrew McCarthy’s article ‘Beyond a REasonable Doubt,’

Terri Schiavo has been ordered by a state judge to be killed by starvation and dehydration. The order implicates her Fifth and Fourteenth Amendment rights not to be deprived of life absent due process of law — the courts that have examined this case do not dispute this indisputable point. I believe it is unquestionably the law of the United States — today, already, without any need to change the law for Terri’s benefit — that due process mandates that no person may be deprived of life by state action unless every factual predicate legally necessary to validate the state action has been proved beyond a reasonable doubt.
The two factual predicates that triggered the state order in this case — that Terri is in a persistent vegetative state (PVS) and that she evinced a desire to die rather than be sustained by food and water if ever she were in a PVS — were not established by proof beyond a reasonable doubt. This cannot be denied. Even the Florida court, which claims (however dubiously) to have made its conclusions using a lesser “clear and convincing evidence” standard, cannot and presumably would not contend that the reasonable doubt standard was used in the state proceedings.

Andrew points out, as have others, that criminals accused of capital crimes receive more consideration and care in their court cases than has Terri. They receive more legal protections, more careful analysis of the evidence, and more concern from for their Constitutionally protected rights.

The Fifth and Fourteenth Amendments do not distinguish between the lives of capital murderers and the lives of other persons. They don’t mention “criminal” and “civil” distinctions. In this context, they command simply that no person shall be deprived of “life…without due process of law.” There is no reason in the text of the Constitution to believe that “due process of law” should have a different meaning depending on whether the life to be taken by state action is that of a convicted criminal or that of some other person.

You’ll want to read the whole thing.

The fifth amendment reads “No person shall be held to answer for a capital, or otherwise infamous crime, unless on a presentment or indictment of a Grand Jury, except in cases arising in the land or naval forces, or in the Militia, when in actual service in time of War or public danger; nor shall any person be subject for the same offence to be twice put in jeopardy of life or limb; nor shall be compelled in any criminal case to be a witness against himself, nor be deprived of life, liberty, or property, without due process of law; nor shall private property be taken for public use, without just compensation.”

The fourteenth amendment is longer, but here is the portion Andrew McCarthy refers to:
No State shall make or enforce any law which shall abridge the privileges or immunities of citizens of the United States; nor shall any State deprive any person of life, liberty, or property, without due process of law; nor deny to any person within its jurisdiction the equal protection of the laws.

I have been thinking that Terri Schiavo is the Dred Scott case of this century, and it is interesting to note that the fourteenth amendment was a direct result of and a response to the Dred Scott case.

You can read more about the Dred Scott decision here.

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