Friday, March 18, 2005

The latest in the Terri Schiavo case is that a Florida judge has delayed removal of her feeding tube -- shortly after this cheap little stunt took place in D.C.:

...U.S. lawmakers on Friday called on Terri Schiavo to appear before congressional committees in an attempt to keep her alive.

House of Representatives leaders issued subpoenas for Schiavo while the Senate called her as a witness to congressional hearings to stave off the removal of her feeding tube, scheduled for 1 p.m....

Federal law protects a witness "from anyone who ... influences, obstructs, or impedes an inquiry or investigation by Congress," [Senator Bill] Frist said.

For some reason, this reminds me of Russell Weston. Remember him? He killed two police officers at the U.S. Capitol in 1998, and it's the most open-and-shut case of not-guilty-by-reason-of-insanity imaginable:

Russell Eugene Weston Jr. told a court-appointed psychiatrist that he stormed the U.S. Capitol last summer, killing two police officers, to prevent the United States from being annihilated by disease and legions of cannibals.

"He described his belief that time was running out and that if he did not come to Washington, D.C., he would become infected with Black Heva," wrote Sally C. Johnson, the psychiatrist who examined Weston last fall. Weston called this imaginary ailment the "most deadliest disease known to mankind" and said it was spread by the rotting corpses of cannibals' victims, Johnson wrote.

Weston told Johnson he went to the Capitol to gain access to what he called "the ruby satellite," a device he said was kept in a Senate safe. That satellite, he insisted, was the key to putting a stop to cannibalism.

The former mental patient told another doctor that he fatally shot officers Jacob J. Chestnut and John M. Gibson on July 24 because they were cannibals who were keeping him from the satellite....

Weston was found incompetent to stand trial, but he was then forcibly medicated in order to determine whether he could be made competent -- and face the death penalty.

In each case, the outcome of standard procedures -- Michael Schiavo's trip through the Florida court system and Russell Weston's competency hearing -- led to a conclusion that's at odds with the simple verities a lot of Americans would like to believe rule the universe: that helpless innocents will triumph and that those who do evil will be punished. Terri Schiavo can't recover, but, for some Americans, that reality is intolerable. No rational person can be held accountable for the Capitol shootings, but some Americans find that equally intolerable. So people with the power to do so toy with the system -- and use Terri Schiavo and Russell Weston -- in order to make life jibe with their belief in a just world.

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