WTSP Channel 10 News, 4/05/2000 MALE NEWSCASTER: Well, should the state drop the case against the Church of Scientology? A judge is considering that issue today. FEMALE NEWSCASTER: It all stems from the death of a church member, Lisa McPherson, back in 1995. Now McPherson died in the care of church members. A few months ago the medical examiner ruled her death was an accident. [split screen--on bottom of screen it shows gavel on top of the words "Scientology hearing" (the word "Scientology" is the Scientology logo with crossed-out cross)] FEMALE NEWSCASTER: 10 News reporter Elaine Lucadano is live in St. Petersburg right now, and Elaine, what happened today? ELAINE LUCADANO (caption--"Elaine Lucadano, St. Petersburg, Scientology hearing"): Well, Sue, attorneys for the Church of Scientology are arguing that this is a case really of religious freedom. They say Lisa McPherson denied that psychiatric care so she could seek spiritual care from her fellow Scientologists. Of course, she ended up dying in their care, but today her best friend told me--this is the first time she's speaking out--she told me she believes the church had nothing to do with Lisa's death. BENNETTA SLAUGHTER (caption--"Bennetta Slaughter, Scientologist"): Well, Lisa was like family to me. She and I were more like sisters, even, than friends. [Bennetta Slaughter; Fort Harrison Hotel; picture of Lisa McPherson] ELAINE LUCADANO--VOICE OF: Even so, Bennetta Slaughter says she stands by the Church of Scientology. She says the church was Lisa's life and her choice for mental and spiritual care. BENNETTA SLAUGHTER: She was practicing her religion. She was where she wanted to be. Lisa didn't die of anything except a pulmonary embolism. And if she hadn't died of a pulmonary embolism, she'd be here today and she'd be a Scientologist today. DOUG CROW: She was clearly dehydrated. [courtroom footage; Judge Susan Schaeffer; more footage of Scienos in courtroom] ELAINE LUCADANO--VOICE OF: Prosecutors claim Lisa McPherson was neglected and medically mistreated by the very people she trusted. They say the Scientology staff was not trained or equipped to handle McPherson's problems. DOUG CROW (caption--"Doug Crow, Asst. State Prosecutor"): And as her condition progressed, nobody _____ [???] ERIC LIEBERMAN (caption--"Eric Lieberman, defense attorney"): She didn't die as a result of anything that was done or not done by anybody at the Church of Scientology. [picture of Lisa] ELAINE LUCADANO--VOICE OF: The medical examiner recently ruled Lisa McPherson died from a blood clot in her lung, a fatal illness Scientologists claim they couldn't prevent or detect. [Elaine Lucadano with Bennetta Slaughter] ELAINE LUCADANO--VOICE OF: Still, Bennetta says she and the church are often accused of killing Lisa. She says the discrimination from it all is intense. ELAINE LUCADANO--ON CAMERA: She told me that her daughter along with a lotter--a lot of other Scientologist children have been attacked and harassed in their schools. She said she even took her daughter because of that and put her in boarding school. Now they tell me, the Scientologists tell me if these charges are dropped, they will continue to try and mend the fences in their community and try to prove to people that they are actually good neighbors, that they always have been good neighbors. The hearing will continue, by the way, here in St. Petersburg tomorrow morning. Sue? FEMALE NEWSCASTER: All right, thanks, Elaine.