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Innocent Plea in Scientology Case

December 1, 1998

CLEARWATER, Fla. (AP) _ The Church of Scientology entered a written innocent plea Monday to charges in the death of a member who spent 17 days in isolation at the church’s international retreat.

Lisa McPherson, 36, died Dec. 5, 1995, after being under the 24-hour care of church members at the church’s Fort Harrison Hotel.

An autopsy showed she died of an embolism, or blood vessel blockage, in her left lung caused by ``bed rest and severe dehydration.″

The church was charged last month with abuse or neglect of a disabled adult and unauthorized practice of medicine, both felonies. It faces a fine if convicted.

No trial date has been set. In its court filing Monday, the church requested a jury trial.

Ms. McPherson’s family has filed a wrongful death lawsuit seeking unspecified damages against the Los Angeles-based church. They say she was held against her will after trying to leave the church, which was founded in 1954 by the late science fiction writer L. Ron Hubbard.

Church officials say Ms. McPherson was well cared for by church members but became violent and incoherent, had trouble sleeping and frequently resisted efforts to give her food, liquids and medications.