Last year on this day, we wrote this:
On December 5, 1995, a 36-year-old woman perished while several people were taking her to a hospital in Florida.
Within a few years, the mysterious and strange circumstances around the death of Lisa McPherson — who had been a Scientologist since the age of 18 — had the Church of Scientology facing a criminal prosecution, generated the worst publicity for the church since it was raided by the FBI in 1977, and inspired a new generation of critics who ever since have kept close watch on the controversial organization.
We wrote that as part of a short remembrance to show our respects to a woman who suffered needlessly.
Today, on the 17th anniversary of Lisa McPherson’s death, we have a very different message.
It’s time the state of Florida’s investigation of Lisa McPherson’s death is reopened.
If you’ve been following along with recent events, you know that a stunning series of allegations have reawakened interest in the death of Lisa McPherson like nothing we’ve seen in many years.
Former church official Marty Rathbun’s recent sworn testimony — that the church spent tens of millions of dollars in an effort to cover-up its own culpability in McPherson’s death — should shock officials in Florida.
In particular, Rathbun describes improper contact between the church and Jeffrey Goodis, the attorney for Joan Wood, the county medical examiner who changed her mind about the cause of McPherson’s death (from “undetermined” to “accident”) and thereby derailed the state’s criminal investigation of Scientology.
Goodis denies that he influenced Wood on behalf of the church, but he has admitted to the Tampa Bay Times that he accepted expensive gifts from the church after Wood made her decision.
Rathbun told filmmaker Mark Bunker that Wood didn’t want gifts from Scientology, she wanted an assurance that she wouldn’t be sued by the church. He describes church leader David Miscavige personally delivering her a signed agreement that the church would not haul her into court — in return for her changing the death certificate.
Before Wood changed her mind, she was certain that McPherson had died of dehydration. Wood believed there was evidence in McPherson’s bodily fluids — particularly in the vitreous humor in her eyeballs — that the troubled woman may have gone the entire 17 days of her stay at Scientology’s Fort Harrison Hotel without a single drop to drink.
The Tampa Bay Times found five top medical experts who agreed with that assessment.
But Wood did change her mind — even if that evidence has remained the same.
Rathbun also explained how the church improperly attempted to influence Florida judges against the McPherson estate’s wrongful death lawsuit, which was forced into settlement in 2004 even though the family had spent years trying to get a jury trial.
A criminal investigation bought off? A civil lawsuit crippled by judicial influence?
Is there really no one in Florida’s investigative or judicial or legal communities who doesn’t think these are issues that need to be addressed?
Perhaps it’s too much to expect that the state will care enough to reopen the criminal investigation of a woman who appeared to have been murdered 17 years ago. Or to take a hard look at the behavior of judges in a bizarre civil case that wrapped up 8 years ago.
But this case is not dead. These accusations are going to be heard in a court of law.
This week, in fact.
On Friday, Ken Dandar will stand before federal Judge Virginia Covington, and he will attempt to convince her that she has the standing to stop a state court’s attempt to sanction him more than a million dollars by the Church of Scientology in matters resulting from these court fights from so long ago.
Is anyone there in Florida paying attention? For Lisa’s sake, does anyone care?
I guess we’ll find out.
LINKS OF NOTE
We’ve written in the past about Lucas Catton, the former president of Scientology’s troubled flagship drug rehab facility, Narconon Arrowhead in Oklahoma. Catton informed us of Narconon’s shaky history of certification, and with the rehab center under investigation for several recent deaths, Catton’s observations are especially crucial.
Enjoy this lengthy interview with him as we hope soon that Disqus gets our comments working again.
UPDATE: We have Disqus!! Please join the fray.