Friday, April 01, 2005

DeLay Threatens Judges in Schiavo Case

April 1, 2005

On a day that should have been reserved for the Schiavo and Schindler families, House Majority Leader Tom DeLay again thrust himself into the limelight to issue a thinly veiled threat against judges. Following Terri Schiavo's death, DeLay released a statement warning that "The time will come for the men responsible for this to answer for their behavior, but not today." This vague and provocative comment came in the midst of a broadside of attacks against those judges – several of them self-described conservatives appointed by conservative presidents – whom DeLay said typified "an arrogant, out of control, unaccountable judiciary." With attacks on judges increasing across the country, DeLay's rhetoric is the height of recklessness and poor judgment.

Judges in the Schiavo case have already been threatened by extremists. Florida Pinellas County Circuit Court Judge George Greer has been "under 24-hour protection by two U.S. marshals due to increased threats against his life by those unhappy with his handling of the Schiavo case," according to CNN. Last Thursday, police arrested an Illinois man they said robbed a Florida gun store as part of an attempt to "rescue Terri Schiavo." The next day, FBI officials took into custody a North Carolina man for placing a $250,000 bounty "on the head of Michael Schiavo" and another $50,000 to murder Judge Greer. And police yesterday said they had "logged several bomb threats" to the hospice where Schiavo died and "the circuit and federal courts that refused to order her feeding tube restored."

The House Majority Leader has no place threatening other members of government or encouraging others to seek retribution against judges. Such incendiary statements are even more inappropriate considering the recent high-profile acts of violence against judges, including the March 11 killings of a federal judge and several others at an Atlanta courthouse. Sen. Edward Kennedy called DeLay's statement "irresponsible and reprehensible," and urged that "at a time when emotions are running high, Mr. DeLay needs to make clear that he is not advocating violence against anyone. People in this case have already had their lives threatened." Tom DeLay should disavow this irresponsible rhetoric and end his personal attacks on the men and women who serve as America's judges.

DeLay's comments are indicative of the extreme, personally vindictive sentiments of right-wing leaders across the country. Dr. James Dobson, founder of the right-wing Focus on the Family, said "the judges who would not stop the removal of Ms. Schiavo's feeding tube were guilty not only of judicial malfeasance - but of the cold-blooded, cold-hearted extermination of an innocent human life." Dr. Richard Land of the Southern Baptist Convention said of those who opposed congressional intervention in the case, "If they want to be vigorous defenders of Michael Schiavo and his right to have his wife killed by starving and dehydration, my words to them are 'Go ahead, be Michael's defenders' - and I wish on each of them a son-in-law like Michael Schiavo."

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