Channel 28 News, 4/05/2000 FEMALE NEWS ANCHOR: The Church of Scientology is in--is in a St. Petersburg courtroom. Attorneys for the church went to court today to try to avoid trial. The church faces felony charges in the December 1995 death of Lisa McPherson. 28 Tampa Bay's Ron Spieker joins us live from St. Petersburg. [split screen] FEMALE NEWS ANCHOR: Ron, this has been an ongoing case. What exactly is new today? [shot of Ron Spieker] RON SPIEKER (caption--"Ron Spieker, 28 Tampa Bay News"): Well, what's new is new evidence and in this church effort to get these charges thrown out. At issue really is some of the church doctrine; that Scientologists maintain that while Lisa McPherson was in their care, the people taking care of her were simply doing what the church teaches them to do, and they did not cause her death. Well, they also have some of this new evidence to back up their claims. LAWYER: There was an original death certificate [close-up of Lisa's death certificate, close-up of phrases "Bed rest and severe dehydration", "Traumatic hemorrhage of Left Popliteal Area", "Psychosis & History of Auto Accident" RON SPIEKER--VOICE OF: Lisa McPherson's first death certificate links church members to her cause of death. An amended version filed in February doesn't, and it's one reason the Church of Scientology wants the charges dismissed. LAWYER: It now says that the probable manner of death is accidental. [picture of Lisa; Fort Harrison; outside hospital; picture of Lisa] RON SPIEKER--VOICE OF: McPherson died after 17 days in the care of church members at its Clearwater headquarters. She had checked herself out of the hospital after an accident to avoid psychiatric treatment, something Scientology does not allow, and the Constitution protects. ERIC LIEBERMAN: To have permitted her to be psychiatrically committed would have been a crime, the most--the worst thing that could have happened to a Scientologist, creating eternal damnation. [Prosecutor Doug Crow; picture of Lisa] RON SPIEKER--VOICE OF: But prosecutors say McPherson didn't just need a psychiatrist, she needed a doctor. They say medical neglect lead to her death and the church prevented her from proper treatment. DOUG CROW: Serious symptoms, uh, such as delirium, confusion, hallucinations which can result from clearly identified medical problems--they were not competent nor were they authorized by the law or the First Amendment [??] to document or determine which is the ____ cause. [Scienos in hallway going into courtroom; David Miscavige in courtroom; Judge Susan Schaeffer] RON SPIEKER--VOICE OF: This hearing is so important to church members, they packed two courtrooms and the church leader flew in from California. They hope the judge's ruling gives them vindication. JUDGE SUSAN SCHAEFFER: Practicing medicine without a license, it would seem to me what that statute is clearly saying is that you've got some people that are doing that they ought not be doing such as practicing medicine, charge them--don't charge the church. RON SPIEKER--ON CAMERA: The judge has yet to make a ruling and in fact she will be back tomorrow to hear more arguments from both sides on this motion to dismiss. She has a couple of options: She could dismiss both charges and skip a trial altogether; she could dismiss one of the charges and hold a trial on the other; or she could dismiss neither charge and have a trial on both. Perhaps tomorrow at the end of the court day, we'll find out what her decision is. Linda? FEMALE NEWS ANCHOR: All right, thank you, Ron. And if there is a trial, that trial is scheduled for October. The church promises a wide-open defense, but prosecutors do believe they can make their case.