Channel 9 News, 4/06/2000 NEWSCASTER: A judge will now decide whether or not the Church of Scientology's Flag Service Organization will stand trial in the 1995 death of one of its members. The church is charged with abuse of a disabled adult and practicing medicine without a license in connection with the death of Lisa McPherson. Attorneys for the church asked the judge to dismiss the case on the grounds their religious practices are protected under the First Amendment. They also feel the state is unfairly targeting their religion. Bay News 9's Chris O'Connell has been following this story and has more from the courtroom. DOUG CROW: This is clearly a case of collective responsibility. [courtroom footage; Fort Harrison Hotel; picture of Lisa McPherson--next to her picture is caption, "Lisa McPherson"] CHRIS O'CONNELL--VOICE OF: The two-day hearing is a preview of what a jury may hear if the case against the Church of Scientology does end up going to trial. Prosecutors say the church itself should be held responsible for the death of Lisa McPherson. DOUG CROW (caption--"Doug Crow, Asst. State Attorney"): We do not concede that this church acted at all times with Lisa's best interests in good faith. That is the disputed issue. [Fort Harrison Hotel] CHRIS O'CONNELL--VOICE OF: State attorneys say church members abused McPherson while staying at the Fort Harrison Hotel in Clearwater. She died 17 days later still under the church's care. LEE FUGATE (caption--"Lee Fugate, church attorney"): What the caregiver said, by the way, was, we never saw a situation where we thought her life was in danger until, as the court noted yesterday, until December 5. And we took her to the hospital. [picture of Lisa; autopsy report; picture of Lisa] CHRIS O'CONNELL--VOICE OF: Church attorneys say McPherson's death was an accident. They point to the medical examiner's autopsy report, amended just two months ago. It says McPherson died of a blood clot in her lung, not severe dehydration as reported in the original autopsy. The defense says church members were trying to care for McPherson, not hurt her. LEE FUGATE: That person refused to eat, refused to drink, and they, in caring for this person, tried to get them to eat and tried to get them to drink. Diagnosis for what a mother would do or what a friend would do or what a fellow religionist would do. [Judge Susan Schaeffer; Scientology books--"Introduction to Scientology Ethics", "What Is Scientology?"] CHRIS O'CONNELL--VOICE OF: Judge Susan Schaeffer offered her own observation. She said no matter who is responsible, McPherson received hospital attention too late. JUDGE SUSAN SCHAEFFER--caption, "Susan Schaeffer, Circuit Court Judge"): The long and the short of it is regardless of what happened to her, had she been removed from the place two days before and taken to a hospital, none of this would have occurred. [courtroom footage; David Miscavige in courtroom] CHRIS O'CONNELL--VOICE OF: More than 150 Scientologists, including the church's top spiritual leader, filled two courtrooms to hear arguments. They, along with the state attorneys, now await the judge's ruling. CHRIS O'CONNELL--ON CAMERA, OUTSIDE COURTHOUSE: If Judge Schaeffer denies the church's request to dismiss this case, then the focus would then turn towards an October trial, a trial that's expected to last up to five weeks. But the judge's decision won't come for at least another month. In St. Petersburg, Chris O'Connell, Bay News 9. NEWSCASTER: Regardless of the judge's decision, attorneys for the family of Lisa McPherson will continue with their civil suit against the church. That trial is not expected until after the criminal case is settled.