The church of scientology is thrashing about in desperate ill advised >attempts to supress the press stories surrounding the McPherson case and >stories showing the extent to which they will go to harass and intimidate >critics. Miscavige, I hope you have room on your boat for a limited number >of trusted advisors. The rest will surely be testifying before the grand >jury!
For those who missed it or can't get Court TV, here's the transcript of the show:
VOICEOVER: The Church of Scientology is accused of killing a woman.
A lawsuit claims a member of the controversial church was held against her will for 17 days at a church retreat and then died.
GREGG JARRETT: That civil lawsuit for wrongful death is pending right now, but now comes a new challenge. The police in Clearwater, FL have just finished a two year investigation of the very same case and they are recommending criminal prosecution.
[picture of Lisa]
VO: It all began when 36-year-old Lisa McPherson was picked up by paramedics after a minor auto accident walking down the street naked.
GJ: Once at the hospital, she was released into the care of seven Scientologists, whose religion opposes psychiatry. McPherson was taken to the church retreat where she spent most of the next 17 days inside a room, the room in which she almost died. The medical examiner says McPherson was deprived of water for at least her last 5-10 days and died of a blood clot brought on by severe dehydration. She was dead at the hospital. A Scientology lawyer I spoke with says the blood clot was caused by the traffic accident 17 days earlier. So who?s to blame, if anybody at all? And what happened to Lisa McPherson? Joining us now live in Tampa, FL is Ken Dandar, the lawyer representing the estate of Lisa McPherson and who filed the wrongful death lawsuit. And in our New York news room is Laura Vaughan, the attorney defending the Church of Scientology. Thank you both for being with us. Ms. Vaughan, first to you, what happened to Lisa McPherson during those 17 days?
LAURA VAUGHAN (rep?s Church of Scientology, NEW YORK, NY): Well, somewhat of a long story. There have been reports that have been made a part of the public record, but Lisa McPherson had a psychotic episode. She strongly opposes psychiatry as would any Scientologist of 13 years and she asked to not be committed to a psychiatric institution at the hospital and to leave with her friends, fellow parishioners from the Church. She did, and for a period of 17 days a number of women, fellow parishioners from the Church, stayed with her on a 24 hour basis. Ms. McPherson was mentally disturbed, she was psychotic, she had difficulties with sequitur speech and a number of things, and these women stayed with her on a 24 hour basis attending to her physical needs and doing everything that they could to help her deal with her problems--
GJ: Look, I looked at the 33 pages of notes here, the handwritten logs by those individuals you?re referring to, the workers there who cared for her for 24 hours, and here?s what you find: "Spitting out food, vomiting, ashen, feverish, violent, striking her attendants, banging on the walls, soiled herself, hallucinated"--and then we get to the hospital 17 days later and she has lost roughly 47 lb from the time that a paramedic took her to the hospital. She was thin, dirty, unkempt, scratches, bruises on her arms and legs, and of course she was dead. Isn?t there some legal duty that your clients owed to this woman, to get her medical care? I?m not talking about psychiatric care--medical care.
LV: First of all, I disagree with your characterization. You pulled out little bits and pieces here and there, and I--I strongly disagree with the amount of weight she lost, I disagree with what happened during those 17 days. She was psychotic, though, and there was no question that she engaged in psychotic behavior. But these women stayed with her and attempted to do everything to help her. They bathed her; there were times when she refused to use the toilet, and they helped--they changed her clothes when she did that. But ultimately what she died of 17 days later was a pulmonary embolism, and I think if you have decided that in this case--
GJ: Brought on by what?
LV: Brought on by trauma. And we will have medical experts--
GJ: What trauma?
LV: To testify that there was some trauma, possibly from the car accident, because if you look at the clinical history, that was the factor that existed at the time--it could have been caused by the car accident, it could have predated her stay at the Ft. Harrison Hotel.
GJ: All right--
LV: But it was certainly 2-4 weeks prior to the injury, and that?s what caused her death.
GJ: Ken Dandar, what killed her?
KEN DANDAR (sued Church of Scientology, Says church killed his client, TAMPA, FL): The treatment that Scientology rendered to Lisa McPherson killed her. The treatment--
GJ: Were they negligent, reckless, or did they intentionally kill her in your view?
KD: Well, when they first forced her into isolation before the car accident, they forced her into isolation according to the Scientology rules and regulations to help her snap out of what they thought was a psychotic break. After she escaped, she had her car accident. They convinced her to come back to the hotel, the Ft. Harrison Hotel in Clearwater, and after a few days of that treatment at the Ft. Harrison Hotel, their own records indicate that she?s acting bizarre. She wasn?t acting bizarre in the emergency room, she?s acting bizarre after the Scientologists grabbed her and brought her back to the hotel. And then she?s incapable of walking, she?s in bed, she?s restrained at times according to the Scientology records because she?s fighting them, she?s banging on the walls. And this girl had absolutely no bruises on her, no marks, no injuries, on December--or November 18, 1995. On December 5, when they bring her to the hospital 45 minutes away, she has bruises on her back, on the bottom of her feet. She has a bloody chin, a bloody nose, and she?s dead on arrival. Scientology went beyond negligence and willfully and intentionally watched her die after following their so-careful treatment that they say they gave her.
JAMI FLOYD, COURT TV CO-ANCHOR: Laura Vaughan, your response to that, and in that response, please answer Gregg?s question--what about medical care? Putting aside the issue of psychiatric treatment and the beliefs of the Church in that regard, why not provide her with medical care and were these Scientologists, as Mr. Dandar suggests, at least negligent?
LV: First, my first response is that Ken Dandar has yet to depose one witness who stayed with Lisa McPherson for those 17 days, has yet to ask the first question about what happened to her during that time period. And what?s lost in this whole thing is that these women--Lisa McPherson was psychotic. And if you went to a psychiatric institution right now and had to spend some time with a person who is psychotic, you would find that they often speak in non sequiturs, that they are violent at times, that she refused food at times. But these women, at great personal sacrifice, stayed with her. They tried to feed her, they cared for her, they changed her clothes--
JF: But they could not cure her--
LV: All these women did try to help her--
JF: They could not cure her, and those other folks you?re talking about are folks who most often are treated, medically and perhaps psychiatrically.
LV: Let?s talk about curing her. You, as a--um, I really don?t know what your religion is; I?m not a Scientologist and I think normal Judeo-Christian, in the normal Judeo-Christian world you may or may not believe in psychiatric treatment, but it isn?t a religious--there isn?t a religious prohibition to it. Curing Lisa McPherson--as, as you?ve indicated what should have been done with her would be to take her to a psychiatric institution. Lisa McPherson, during the time that she was with the Church of Scientology, if taken to--for treatment, would have been taken for psychiatric treatment. It is her constitutional right to refuse psychiatric treatment. It was her constitutional right when she made that decision in the hospital. It remained her right to refuse psychiatric treatment. And certainly now after the fact, Mr. Dandar cannot say that the Church was somehow negligent and certainly not criminally responsible for failing to give her psychiatric treatment--
GJ: Right--let?s pause here for just a moment. We?re going to continue this discussion. I?m not sure we?ve really gotten a straight answer--did the Church of Scientology owe a duty of care for medical treatment of one of those who was literally in their care? We?ll be right back to answer that question.
[picture of Lisa]
VO: Lisa McPherson died during the 17 days she spent in a room at a Church of Scientology retreat.
GJ: A civil lawsuit claims she was a prisoner there, so severely mistreated she died of a blood clot caused by severe dehydration. Police are now recommending a criminal prosecution, but the church insists it did nothing wrong, that her death was a terrible accident. Let?s go to Ray Brown, veteran criminal defense attorney and our colleague here at Court TV. Ray, what does the law say about a case like this?
RAY BROWN, COURT TV ANCHOR, NEW YORK, NY: Gregg, there are two legal principles we ought to keep in mind in these matters. One is fairness or due process, the other is duty. Fairness requires that we keep in mind that Scientology has been attacked many times and in many places, and you have to look carefully when charges are made against unpopular organizations. But, on the other hand, when you come to duty, Ms. Vaughan keeps talking about the fact that McPherson was psychotic. That doesn?t answer the question, it poses it. A psychotic person is out of touch with reality, the equivalent of a child. So if you have care of a psychotic person for 17 days, you have some questions to answer in terms of your duty. If the person would have died no matter what, what can you say? But if, on the other hand, there was a failure to give her the care required of a helpless child, then there may be serious problems in the civil case now pending or the criminal litigation that may be to come.
GJ: Laura Vaughan, how do you respond?
LV: I?ll answer your question. The reason that I was talking about psychiatric treatment was because when there--there was no indication that Lisa McPherson had a medical condition that was going to cause her death, and I think you need to look a few places and you can see that the evidence so far in the record that is part of the public record indicates that. She died of a thrombus of her left popliteal vein with no external signs or symptoms of that.
[picture of Lisa]
LV: That means that these parishioners who were with her had no idea that she had a thrombus that ultimately turned into an embolus. Prior to that, prior to the time that she appeared to be ill, it was a psychiatric condition that she had which brings up another legal issue: Does the Church have a duty to take her to see a psychiatrist, and if you?re saying that they had a duty to take her somewhere prior to that, you are imposing a duty to take a woman to a psychiatrist who had 1) made an affirmative decision that she did not want to see a psychiatrist in accordance with her religious beliefs, and also imposing a duty on the Church of Scientology to go against her wishes and seek psychiatric treatment, which would be against their religious beliefs as well.
GJ: Ken Dandar, you say that the Church willfully and intentionally killed her. Why would they want her dead?
KD: As bizarre as this sounds, the Church of Scientology will let a member die before they face bad public relations, according to their own copyrighted books on rules and regulations of Scientology. Here is a Scientologist who took off her clothes in public and said to the paramedics, "Don?t worry, I?m not crazy. I took off my clothes because I need help, I need to talk to someone." And this has caused great public relations problems with Scientology. On December 1, 1995--and by the way, I did take the deposition of a medical doctor who is a Scientologist on staff, and unfortunately that doctor pled the Fifth Amendment, so when they start pleading the Fifth Amendment, I can?t ask any more questions. Now--
JF: But, but Ken Dandar, certainly the worst public relations disaster is death of this woman.
KD: Well, why did they take her to a hospital 45 minutes away to a fellow Scientologist when she?s in a coma from severe dehydration, rather than a few blocks down the road to the Morton Plant Hospital where all the Scientologists go? There?s only one common sense logical conclusion--to cover it all up.
GJ: Well if they want her dead, if they want her dead, why take such fastidious notes, 33 pages--although, I?ll point out, and it?s important to know--the last two days of the notes, the two days, critical days that led to her death, they are suddenly and magically missing.
KD: The Scientologists are meticulous on taking notes. The rules are, you must take notes on Isolation, minute by minute. There?s more than just a few days missing. The last 2-1/2 days of her life are missing. They claimed they searched the world to find these last 2-1/2 days. The question is, why did you have to search at all? Why aren?t these records with the rest of these records?
KD: There are a lot of records missing.
RB: Gregg, I think the real, ultimate question is gonna be whether the Scientologists can answer questions not about psychiatric care but about whether this woman, who appears to have lost substantial weight and had other problems, got adequate medical care.
JF: And Raymond Brown, it seems we?re hearing two very extreme views here, but isn?t there a possibility that the fact, the true fact, lies somewhere in the middle?
RB: That?s true, that?s why a civil case may be more difficult for the Scientologists than a criminal case. But remember, there are degrees of negligent homicide as well as homicide with intent.
JF: All right. Thank you to all of our guests. -------------------------------------