Silent Witness: the Untold Story of Terri Schiavo’s Death – Book Review
This morning, while visiting home, I decided to accompany my Mother on her trip to her car dealership in order to repair a broken taillight. While in the customer lounge, I decided to check out the inaptly named “Dealership Library” that had over fifteen (15) books to choose from. Many of these were histories of Minnesota, odes to old people, fishing explorations, etc. Yet, one book called out to me. On top of a pile of World War I history books was Silent Witness: the Untold Story of Terri Schiavo’s Death by Mark Fuhrman. You might remember him as the N-bomb dropping detective of the OJ Simpson trial who was convicted of perjury. What you may not remember is that, following his felony, he wrote the national bestseller Murder in Brentwood, which aimed to clear his name regarding fabricating evidence during the trial and made the case Simpson was guilty. He followed-up a few years later with Murder in Greenwich a book explaining his theory that Ethel Kennedy’s nephew Michael Skakel was behind the then-unsolved 1975 murder of 15-year-old Kennedy family member Martha Moxley. With Skakel’s successful conviction four years later, Fuhrman returned with the less accusatory Death and Justice where he, as a former Capital Punishment advocate, made the case for our justice system being far too (as he put it) “flimsy” to allow such final judgment. This recent turn set the stage for him to make his definitive “life > death” opus, and six-months later he found his muse in the form of a braindead bodydead Terri Schiavo. I had to read.
In under 300 pages, Fuhrman makes the case that not only was Schiavo cognoscente at the time of her death, but she was on the path to telling us the identity of her real m-m-m-murderer…her husband Michael Schiavo! The thing you need to remember about Silent Witness is that it came out literally three months after she died, so not only have many of his claims been disproved, but the entire affair reads rushed, even by courthouse cash-in standards. This is a book where, no less than one chapter in, we’re greeted with sentences like “After four days being deprived of food and hydration, Terri is described by her father as appearing lethargic and stressed.” And it only gets worse.
Reading Silent Witness made me feel dirty, and not in the way Fuhrman would like. It’s crash journalism at its absolute worst as he tries to fear-monger the reader into believing our country as a whole is complacent in letting Michael Schiavo force a woman to starve to death in the public eye. While Chapter 12 Possible Scenarios concludes with Fuhrman stating that while he doesn’t particularly like Mr. Schiavo, it doesn’t necessarily mean he killed his wife, he spends the book’s other 271 pages on a non-stop smear campaign against the man. We learn he proposed to Terri after only their second date, would have pissing contests (in the most literal sense) with the male members of his family in front of her, was often unemployed, was merely a McDonald’s manager while Terri was racking up the big bucks at Prudential, *may* have once asked Terri to change her hair color, and (according to Terri’s unbiased parents, the Schlinders) was prone to argue. Fuhrman isn’t merely grabbing at straws here, he’s driving a haunted hayride. With the cause of Terri’s initial collapse on February, 25 1990 still unknown, we’re given the slight discrepancies in three instances of Michael’s recounting the events (Did he get out of bed right away? Did he call 911 right when he saw her, or after he sat down?) as proof he’s a liar and possible murderer. Fuhrman writes “the reason he has so much trouble keeping his story straight is that it’s based on a falsehood necessitated by guilt.” In the aforementioned Possible Scenarios chapter, Fuhrman claims the reason there were no signs of a struggle in her oxygen deprevation is because Michael put her in the throat-avoiding “Million Dollar Dream” sleeperhold before leaving her face down on the ground until he was certain she would be brain damaged enough to obtain her (Chapter 7’s namesake) Money, Sex and Power.
It’s a disgusting book on several levels. While Schiavo’s potassium issues would maybe warrant a look into the possibility that she was bulimic, Fuhrman (I’m not making this up) often bases his theories on that, at the time of collapse, she had “a very bad yeast infection.” Surely when Sean Hannity asked him to write this book, he wasn’t anticipating a tabloid-esqe “Schiavo Fiasco: The Home Game!” Even beyond these frequent lapses of anything resembling good taste, Fuhrman’s writing is some mad scientist’s pretentious-juvenile frankenstyle hybrid. After stating that Michael doesn’t remember what he and his wife were fighting about the day before the accident, he actually wrote “I would find this highly coincidental. If I believed in coincidences.” Not only is the second sentence not even a complete thought, but an actual detective is casting doubt on the existence of “coincidences.” Not “fate,” not “divine intervention,” no Fuhrman is denying a concrete concept that can be proven an infinite number of times in favor of sounding like a Fox News-syndicated episode of The O.C. Silent Witness is an atrocious testament to scapegoat poaching human greed and despite numerous unintentionally hilarious moments, makes a poor addition to any car dealership’s library.
We give Silent Witness: the Untold Story of Terri Schiavo’s Death a One out of Five.
So until next time…let’s agree to agree.