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Title Scientology - Lisa McPherson's charges against Scientology

Lisa McPherson s charges against Scientology The St. Petersburg Times published column by Mary Jo Melone on the Lisa McPherson charges against Scientology this week. The usual rules of the game require that I withhold judgment on the charges of criminal neglect and practicing medicine without a license that were filed against the Church of Scientology on Nov. 13 by Pinellas-Pasco State Attorney Bernie McCabe in connection with McPherson s death in 1995. But the good guys finally struck back at that collection in Clearwater of the glassy-eyed, the robotic and the rich. And the just plain sick. The Scientologists didn t literally use a turkey baster to force pseudo-medical cocktails into McPherson, but a device that operates under the same principle, called an irrigation syringe. Imagine a needleless syringe bigger than the one used to give you a flu shot. Honest-to-God medical people use it to flush wounds, said Ken Dandar, the attorney for McPherson s survivors, who are suing the Scientologists. McPherson was pumped with concoctions that would have impressed Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde: magnesium, a sedative called chloral hydrate, aspirin, the antihistamine Benadryl, and assorted vitamins and herbs. Scientology mumbo-jumbo swears it was going to save her from her psychosis. A hearing will be held on the criminal charges on Nov. 30, and the Scientologists vow to resolve them quickly. They say nothing like this will ever happen again. If the church pleads no contest to McCabe s criminal charges, the criminal case can t even be mentioned in the civil suit. On the other hand, if the church fights the charges and loses, the criminal case can be cited in the civil proceedings. This would almost certainly drive up the cost of a settlement. The Times also published an article on the decision to bring charges against Scientology in the case. Among McCabe s options: Be aggressive and level a serious charge such as manslaughter, but risk a bruising legal battle with the Church of Scientology, which had taken on much bigger fish than McCabe. Only four years earlier, the well-heeled organization had subdued the IRS after a 40-year legal war, at times spending $1-million a month on lawyers. Another route would have been to decline to charge or level a minor charge, which might have exposed McCabe to accusations that he lacked toughness. He eventually chose a third option, say Heyman and other lawyers who know the state attorney and are familiar with the workings of his office. McCabe took what they described as an eminently safe and practical middle course that resulted in two felony charges against the Church of Scientology s main operating entity in Clearwater. The Church of Scientology Flag Service Organization Inc. was charged with abuse and/or neglect of a disabled adult and practicing medicine without a license. To prove manslaughter, prosecutors would have had to prove that Scientology or its members committed culpable negligence. That means proving they must have known or reasonably should have known their actions were likely to cause death or great bodily injury, according to the jury instruction for manslaughter. The prosecutor also would have to prove that any violations were gross and flagrant. Also, a manslaughter defense likely would include the argument that Scientologists were simply practicing their religious beliefs in trying to help McPherson, Heyman said. McCabe s office probably chose the abuse and/or neglect charge because it fits the facts in the case better than manslaughter. Under state law, prosecutors must prove that a caregiver who has assumed responsibility for a disabled adult must take reasonable measures to protect the person. In using the charge, McCabe will not be required to prove the church caused McPherson s death only that it seriously injured her. The prosecutor thus avoids what was expected to be a sophisticated and highly scientific defense in which Scientology would have tried to prove McPherson s death was a health-related accident that happened to occur while she was in their company. The Guardian published an article on the McPherson case this week. If Hollywood stars such as John Travolta JT to the hierarchy - and Tom Cruise are Scientology s pin-ups, McPherson and her like are the stick-ups they put the posters on their walls. But life was still good to McPherson. An unsigned tax return for 1994 showed her income as almost $137,000, though she appears to have donated $75,275 of that to qualified religious services . She kept a diary in which she detailed routine concerns about relationships, her health, her kitten and her mother. She loved dancing and would take a twirl with anyone who could keep up with her at the Old New York New York nightclub in Clearwater, the church s world headquarters. There was no particular reason to predict what would happen when she was in a minor car crash on November 18 three years ago. There was no evidence that McPherson was hurt, and she got out of the vehicle and walked down the road wild-eyed, tearing off her clothes. She was thought to have had a breakdown and was recommended to a mental institution by the local hospital. But Scientologists share at least one strongly-held belief with mainstream skeptics: they will have no truck with psychiatry. So McPherson was taken instead to the Fort Harrison hotel, owned by the organistion. Seventeen days later, she was pronounced dead shortly after arriving at HCA hospital, New Port Richey. Her family blames Scientology for her death, for her dehydration, the bruises on her arms and legs, the abrasions and lesions, the apparent bug or animal bites. A medical examiner said she had died of a blood clot complicated by dehydration. She also had an infection, which the church blames for all her symptoms. McPherson s ashes were scattered over the graves of her brother and father, who also died by his own hand. Every so often her mother, Fannie, walks by a Dianetics office in Dallas, Texas. When I see those poor things going into that place I want to go in there and scream: Get out. You don t know what you re getting into . This news was taken from: Alt.religion.scientology Week in Review Volume 3, Issue 34 11/29/98 by Rod Keller &91;; copyright 1998