Public Eye, CBS TV, 1/7/98

to order a videotape, call 1-800-934-news

Description of video in [brackets]. VO--VOICEOVER of Kristin Jeannette-Meyers

ANNOUNCER: Once again, live from CBS News, here is Bryant Gumbel

BRYANT GUMBEL (in studio): Since first attracting attention more than 30 years ago the tenets of Scientology have been reviled by critics and revered by supporters. Those same supporters have earned a fierce reputation for relentlessly using the courts to defend Scientology, ultimately gaining it tax exempt status as a recognized religion. In recent years, the church's profile has been enhanced by association with a variety of Hollywood stars, famous folks who have put a shining face on a self-styled church that's often clouded by secrecy and mistrust. All of which brings us to a lawsuit in Florida, a wrongful death suit that has pitted proponents of Scientology against the family of a young woman who died in the prime of her life. Kristin Jeannette-Meyers, herself a lawyer, details the sad end of Lisa McPherson.

(17 DAYS--Producer: Bill McGowan)

{CW candlelight vigil 12/5/97--bagpiper playing "Taps; picketer (Jeff Jacobsen) holding sign with Lisa's pic and message "Lisa McPherson 1959-1995"; vigil member blowing out his own candle]

VO: She was not rich, famous, or powerful. but in death, Lisa McPherson is grabbing headlines normally reserved for Scientology's celebrity followers.

[Daytime picket--Picketer (Garry Scarff) holding sign with picture of Lisa and message "Honoring Lisa's memory--Please don't let it be lost in the battle--Murdered by Scientology"]

VO: That's because after two years, the death of Lisa McPherson remains to many a mystery.

[pics of Lisa, Ft. Harrison]

VO: Lisa, a devout Scientologist, spent the last 17 days of her life confined to a room inside this hotel owned by Scientology. Church records show that during that time, Lisa became violent, refusing to eat or sleep.

[Dell Liebreich]

VO: The tragedy has left Lisa's aunt and closest living relative, Dell Liebreich, searching for answers.

DELL LIEBREICH: I'm just very unhappy with Scientology.

KRISTEN JEANNETTE-MYERS: do you think criminal charges should be filed?

LIEBREICH: I definitely do. I definitely do. Because I feel like they killed her.

[pic of Lisa; Clearwater traffic]

VO: Lisa's tragic saga began on November 18, 1995. She was driving down this road in Clearwater and got into a minor fender bender. No one was hurt, but as a precaution, paramedics responded.

[Bonnie Portalano stepping out of ambulance]

VO: It was a routine call for Bonnie Portalano and her partner, until the bizarre happened.

BONNIE PORTALANO: Lisa and the accident scene was behind our ambulance. And he says, "You're never going to guess what she's doing," speaking of Lisa, and I said, "What?" And he said, "She's taking off her clothes."

[pic of Lisa]

VOICE OF BONNIE PORTALANO: And it was like a few seconds later she came walking down the side of our ambulance with not a stitch on. As I went to get her, you know, I said, "Lisa, Lisa," you know, "Why did you take your clothes off?"

[Bonnie Portalano, back on camera]

PORTALANO: And she said, "I wanted people to think I was crazy so then I could get some help."

[Morton Plant Hospital, hospital Patient Self-Release form signed by Lisa]

VO: Paramedics took Lisa to a nearby hospital. Doctors wanted to keep her overnight for observation, but Lisa said she wanted to leave with a group of Scientologists who showed up at the hospital.

[Mike Rinder, Laura Vaughan]

VO: Mike Rinder is the director of the Church of Scientology International. Laura Vaughan is an attorney representing Scientology.

LAURA VAUGHAN: What she told the people at the hospital is, she didn't want to stay. I think if the doctor could have kept her, he would have. But she expressed her desire to leave, and he had no right to keep her.

JEANNETTE-MEYERS (outside Ft. Harrison): Lisa's friends brought her here to the Fort Harrison Hotel, the spiritual headquarters of Scientology. She arrived in good physical condition. When she left two-and-a-half weeks later, she was near death. What happened to Lisa McPherson during those 17 days has been the focus of an ongoing two-year criminal investigation. Scientologists say the probe is a witch-hunt, but church critics see it as an opportunity to expose what they say is a dangerous cult.

[Dennis Erlich]

DENNIS ERLICH: I was in it for 15 years. I know that it is a cult.

[Older picture of Dennis, picture of L. Ron Hubbard]

VO: Dennis Erlich says that during his days in Scientology, the standard treatment for episodes like Lisa McPherson's was isolation, a step originally prescribed by Scientology founder L. Ron Hubbard.

ERLICH: The step consists of locking a person in a room where they cannot communicate with anyone. No one is to communicate with them. And they're to be kept there until they supposedly come out of their psychotic state.

VAUGHAN: To an average person, we think isolation, that means alone. And there's nothing nefarious or wrong about her being away from work that might have been upsetting her, away from family that might have been upsetting her, with people from the church who were with her 24 hours a day trying to get her to rest, trying to get her to eat, trying to help her in a way that was in accordance with her religious beliefs.

[Ft. Harrison, copies of handwritten logs, picture of Lisa]

VO: The only glimpse into Lisa McPherson's 17 days at the Fort Harrison Hotel comes from logs kept by Scientologists who were assigned to keep watch over Lisa.

[selected portions of the logs repeated in plain text underneath:

"She was out of control", "She refused to eat", "Blabbering, incoherent", She was violent"]

VO: Despite Scientology's efforts to keep them confidential, the courts have made them public. The logs show Lisa's physical and mental state deteriorating over those 17 days.

[Mike Rinder]

JEANNETTE-MEYERS: Rest and relaxation sounds like a wonderful idea. But the records say that two days into her stay she was spitting out food and vomiting, four days into her stay she was ashen faced and feverish, and then she became violent, striking the attendants, hallucinating, thinking that she's L. Ron Hubbard, being too weak to stand, soiling herself, crying, babbling, breaking things. At that point, isn't it clear that it's not working?

RINDER: What's not working?

JEANNETTE-MEYERS: Resting, taking her away?

RINDER: I don't think that that's clear at all. I don't think that you can draw inferences or conclusions from what is said. You can read other reports and later on there is a different perspective.

JEANNETTE-MEYERS: But these are the church records.

RINDER: Of course they are.

VAUGHAN: All of those things might say to you, as a non-Scientologist, this person should be committed. But as a Scientologist they would say that she's not to be treated like that, psychiatry is abuse, and that is their right to believe that psychiatry is abuse, it's Lisa McPherson's right to believe that and to not engage in it if she doesn't want to.

[Shirley Cage and Brenda Spencer, two of Lisa's friends]

VO: Shirley Cage and Brenda Spencer, two of Lisa's closest friends in the church, agree.

BRENDA SPENCER: She would not have wanted to be treated by a psychiatrist. I know that without question.

JEANNETTE-MEYERS: Even if it would have saved her life?

SPENCER: Even without question. I don't care what the circumstances were, she would not have wanted to be treated by a psychiatrist.

[older pics of Lisa, pic of Lisa and her parents]

VO: When you look through Lisa McPherson's photo album, there's no hint of the tragedy to come. She was pretty and popular, a member of her high school drill team and a good student. But when she was 14, her brother committed suicide. Ten years later her father, a recovering alcoholic, did the same. So when a job supervisor introduced Lisa to the Church of Scientology at the age of 18, she embraced it as a surrogate family.

LIEBRIECH: She came home one day and told her mom and dad that she had joined a church. Well, they were elated. They thought that was great. Until they found out what it was.

[pics of Lisa, CoS building in CW, Sea Org members walking down street]

VO: Eventually Lisa even moved from her native Texas to Scientology's spiritual mecca in Clearwater, Florida. She joined a group of thousands who flock here every year to attend courses and counseling designed to overcome what they believe are traumatic memories from previous lives.

[statement of payments Lisa made to church--total $75,275; picture of Lisa]

VO: In 1994, Lisa spent more than one half of her income on those courses. She worked for a publishing company with close ties to the church, and helped spearhead Scientology community projects. Even her vacations were taken on the Scientology cruise ship.

[footage of party, Lisa dancing]

SHIRLEY CAGE: She believed that that church was the most important thing in the world, and that the good that it was doing was something she wanted to be a part of, and she dedicated herself immensely.

[picture of Lisa receiving her Clear Certificate]

VO: In the fall of 1995 Scientology declared Lisa to be Clear, a mental state the church says promotes inner peace and happiness.

[picture of Lisa]

VO: But what no one has been able to explain is how in two short months that inner peace crumbled into emotional chaos.

[legal paper, part of which says "Dell Liebreich, as Personal Representative of the Estate of LISA McPherson, Plaintiff, vs. Church of Scientology d/b/a Church of Scientology, Flag Service Organization, Inc., Defendants]

VO: That answer may come out through a wrongful death lawsuit the McPherson family has filed against Scientology.

[Ken Dandar]

VO: The case is being handled by attorney Ken Dandar, who has his own theory about what happened over those 17 days.

KEN DANDAR: So could you imagine Lisa McPherson, who is mentally unstable according to Scientology, is having these people come in and try to force feed her, and she's yelling and screaming at them. She's banging on the wall. She's fighting with them. She's asking them questions. But they are not allowed to respond to her. All they can do is turn around and walk out the room, and then write a report to the case supervisor and close the door behind them. And she's not allowed to leave.

RINDER: Dandar is an idiot. That's my response to that. He hasn't got a clue. He is the worst of the worst of what makes the American legal system so out of control. He is an ambulance chasing gold digger.

DANDAR: My reply to that is simple: If they had called an ambulance for Lisa McPherson, I wouldn't be here today.

[Ft. Harrison; map of Clearwater area including nearby cities, showing about eight cities between Clearwater and New Port Richey; picture of Lisa]

VO: The Scientologists never did call an ambulance. But on the 17th day, Lisa was at last taken to a hospital in a church van. It didn't take Lisa to the closest hospital, which was just a few blocks away, or the second closest, or the third, or even the fourth nearest for that matter. Instead, they drove to New Port Richey Hospital, 45 minutes away. And it was during those 45 minutes that Lisa McPherson died.

DANDAR: She certainly would have made it to the hospital--it's only a few blocks down the road--alive, and where she would have been provided the appropriate care.

JEANNETTE-MEYERS: Why was Lisa taken so far away when it was clear that she was ill?

[Rinder says nothing, but looks very uncomfortable]

VAUGHAN: I think that the answer to that question comes in the doctor who was at the New Port Richey Hospital was a Scientologist. Lisa McPherson had obviously had some mental problems, and I think that people thought that the best situation would be for her to see someone who was a Scientologist. The people at the hospital had no idea what had killed her. The people who were taking care of her did not know that she was going to die. It was an accident, and it was sudden.

[Wayne Shelur]

WAYNE SHELUR: One of the first things that gave investigators great pause was the inordinate loss of weight on the part of Lisa McPherson.

VO: Wayne Shelur is with the Clearwater Police Department.

SHELUR: The paramedics who attended her at the scene of the wreck estimated her weight to be around 150 pounds. But once she was pronounced dead her weight at the time of death was 108 pounds and her appearance was rather cadaverous.

JEANNETTE-MEYERS: She lost more than 40 pounds in 17 days?

SHELUR: That's what it would appear.

[autopsy report; death certificate; Fort Harrison; highlighted words from autopsy report "Bed rest and severe dehydration"]

VO: An autopsy indeed showed that Lisa McPherson died of a pulmonary embolism, a blood clot that traveled to her lung. But according to the coroner's office, it was caused in part by what happened during those 17 days. The autopsy report says Lisa's death was due to bed rest and severe dehydration.

[Joan Wood in court room; footage of Lisa; autopsy photos of Lisa's hands]

VO: In fact, the medical examiner, Dr. Joan Wood, theorized that Lisa McPherson had little to no fluids for the last five to ten days of her life. She also believes that Lisa had bruises and insect bites all over her body.

[Scieno picket--signs say "Sid Klein, what's your crime?", "Give protection, not prejudice", "Dead beat dads and child molesters stay home"]

VO: The church, which says it will prove the lab findings are flawed, has taken to the streets to protest what they say is a smear campaign by the Clearwater government to discredit the church.

[Fort Harrison; Clearwater courtroom]

VO: Both sides now await a decision by a Florida prosecutor on possible criminal charges in the Lisa McPherson case, a decision that could come any day.

[Dell Liebreich and Kristin Jeannette-Meyers walking]

VO: Meanwhile, Dell Liebreich's battle with Scientology is a civil matter that has turned decidedly uncivil.

RINDER: What her motivation is? Money. Pure and simple. She is pretending to represent the interests of Lisa McPherson. She is representing Lisa McPherson's estate. I can assure you that the last thing that Lisa McPpherson would be doing would be suing her church.

LIEBREICH: To them this is bad PR, but I want people to find out, you know, all over the world, for it not to ever happen to anybody else. What happened to Lisa.

[CW candlelight vigil, bagpiper playing "Amazing Grace"]

BRYANT GUMBEL (in studio): Heber Jentzsch is the president of the Church of Scientology International. He's in Los Angeles. Mr. Jentzsch, good evening.

HEBER JENTZSCH (on TV studio monitor): Good evening.

GUMBEL: Those affiliated with Scientology ran an orchestrated campaign pressuring us to not run the piece you just watched. Do you not consider the mysterious death of a young woman in the care of Scientologists as a valid reason for outside questions?

JENTZSCH: I consider the fact that your people were given information, Bryant, that they did not put on the show, and there were various specific information that they could have used. Joan Wood, the medical examiner, she never did the autopsy on this case. And that was known to your people. It was done by a Dr. Davis, and he did the actual autopsy, OK? And in his autopsy, he said he did not agree with Joan Wood, the medical examiner. Davis did about 25 autopsies, 24 were completed. One was not completed. The reason that one, on Lisa McPherson, was not completed was because his notes were not available. They were not available because Joan Wood, the medical examiner, destroyed those notes. Then, she goes on national tabloid TV and starts blabbing about all these kinds of accusations and so forth. That is sickening to me. It is sickening that it has to be done that way when your people had the information. And then she says to Davis, who did--

GUMBEL: Mr. Jentzsch--

JENTZSCH: Let me finish this one point--

GUMBEL: Go ahead quickly.

JENTZSCH: She did not let Davis talk. She said, "Don't talk to the media, don't talk to anybody about this. Don't talk to the church, don't talk to the police." And she ordered him not to do so. That's obstruction of justice. That's just one of the things that she did. your people had that. OK. Why is it that's not there?

GUMBEL: Mr. Jentzsch, your people were well represented in the piece

throughout. Mike Rinder was well heard. Laura Vaughan was well heard. Let me ask you, your people had--your people had every right to intervene with Scientology principles. No one disputes that. But at what point, sir, does Miss McPherson have a right to say, I've had enough, I want out?

JENTZSCH: She didn't say that, and I have with me the psychiatric examination--

BRYANT: Your own--

JENTZSCH: Which was given here. She said--she said, I want to go home with my friends in the congregation. That's what she said--

GUMBEL: That was before the 17 day stay at the hotel. Mr.--

JENTZSCH (holding up document): This is the document I have right here. This is the document, right here--

GUMBEL: Mr. Jentzsch, Mr. Jentzsch, your own logs show that she's fighting with your people, yelling at them, pleading with them, but they are not responding, not letting her leave. At what point, sir, does that become a legitimate case of someone being held against their will?

JENTZSCH (raising voice): Our people were helping her in every possible way. If you look at those notes, you will see very clearly that those people were heroes. They were taking abuse, they were attacked and so forth. They loved her. And the people who are saying these things hated her guts while she was a Scientologist. They hated her completely and they hate her in death. They--our people loved her, they respected her. And Lisa was a church member. She was always a church member--

GUMBEL: Mr. Jentzsch, even if I accept that those people loved her and wanted to take care of her, your own logs clearly depict a woman with a deteriorating mental condition and failing health. Do your people have no responsibility to have those maladies professionally addressed?

JENTZSCH: You're saying that a psychiatrist is going to do something which is gonna be better. You know, there s a case in Miami, Florida which dealt with this directly. And there was a fellow who was also dramatizing like this and carrying on. You know what they did to him? Eleven attendants jumped him. They threw a blanket around his head. They kneed him in the back, they knocked him down--

GUMBEL: I never mentioned a psychiatrist, Mr. Jentzsch--.

JENTZSCH (raising voice): No, no, well I'm telling you because that's what, that's what you're saying. You're calling those people professionals. They're not professionals--

GUMBEL: She was in failing physical health. Do they not have any responsibility to get maladies addressed?

JENTZSCH: The last--the last time when she was--she started to deteriorate, it was very rapid. They took her to a hospital. but those--those--you're saying it should be a psychiatrist. I'm saying that if they went to a psychiatrist, she would have been destroyed by them--

GUMBEL: I never mentioned the word "psychiatrist", sir--

JENTZSCH (raising voice more): I know, but you and I talked earlier today and I did mention it and you know that that's part of this case and you know that was part of the--the problem with this, okay? Psychiatrists destroy people's lives. They have the highest incidents of rape and so forth. She didn't want to go there. It's very clear--

GUMBEL: They have the highest incidents of rape?

JENTZSCH (raising voice more): Of any profession. There's 2,500 indictments against psychiatrists in this country last year alone. Why would you go to a bunch of people like that who use electric shock? And that causes brain damage. That destroys people lives. She didn't want to go there. She had a right not to go there with a psychiatrist--

GUMBEL: Heber Jentzsch--

JENTZSCH: This lady was taken care of. You know, Mr. Gumbel--

GUMBEL: Heber Jentzsch--

JENTZSCH: That situation down there is bigotry. And I told you about it. We have the information. The 11th circuit court of appeals said--

GUMBEL: Heber Jentzsch--

JENTZSCH: That there was--

GUMBEL: Thank you, sir--

JENTZSCH: There was a fervor against it. This is just incredible-GUMBEL: Sir,--

JENTZSCH: They said it was patently offensive--

GUMBEL: Sir, sir, I will have to let that be the last word-JENTZSCH: I'm sorry. But, you know--

GUMBEL: Thank you. We'll be right back.



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