Broward judge taking Raelians’ clone claim seriously

South Florida Sun-Sentinel, Jan. 22, 2003

Many suspect that the world’s first alleged human cloning is a hoax, but a Broward Circuit judge said Tuesday he is still concerned about the baby’s welfare — if she exists.

A Coral Gables-based attorney filed court papers seeking to protect “Baby Eve” soon after Clonaid and the Raelian religious sect announced a cloned baby girl was born Dec. 26 at an undisclosed location.

The attorney, Bernard Siegel, wants Broward Circuit Judge John Frusciante to appoint a lawyer to ensure that the child is safe and is not being abused or exploited.

Some experts suggested the lawsuit would be quickly dismissed. But at an emergency hearing Tuesday, Frusciante made it clear that he is taking Siegel’s effort seriously.

“I’m here for the child’s safety, for the purposes of protecting the child,” Frusciante said.

Attorneys who represent Clonaid and the Raelians were also at the hearing, as were attorneys for the Department of Children & Families and the state Attorney General’s Office; child advocates and reporters, including a camera crew from CNN.

The hearing was scheduled for the judge to rule on an attempt by Clonaid vice president Thomas Kaenzig to have a subpoena with which he was served dismissed.

Siegel subpoenaed Kaenzig to get information about Baby Eve’s location, her parents, her health and welfare, and whether she was cloned. In response, Kaenzig filed sworn papers saying he has no knowledge of the child.

Frusciante ruled the subpoena valid and ordered Kaenzig to be available by phone to answer questions at a previously scheduled hearing today. Kaenzig will be sworn in by a notary in Las Vegas where he lives and questioned over a speaker phone in court, the judge ruled.

In trying to get the subpoena dismissed, the attorneys for Clonaid, Jonathan Schwartz and Barry Wax, argued that Broward courts have no jurisdiction over the baby and that Siegel has no basis for his claims that the child could be in danger.

At a Dec. 27 news conference in Hollywood, Clonaid President Brigitte Boisselier claimed Baby Eve was born to two U.S. citizens but revealed little information. At first, she said the parents would submit to DNA testing to prove the child was a clone, but she has since backed away from that, saying the parents have security concerns. Boisselier also claims more cloned babies will be delivered in the next few weeks.

The parents have said the lawsuit is one reason they are now resisting DNA testing. Through Clonaid, they said they fear the child will be taken away from them or that she could be in danger from people who oppose cloning, Schwartz said.

Boisselier is the only Clonaid official in contact with the child’s parents and knows their location, Schwartz said.

“The child’s parents want to remain anonymous,” said Schwartz. “Clonaid is not secreting a child. A husband and wife have decided to have a child. [Clonaid is] respecting them and their wish.”

Medical experts say they doubt that a baby has been cloned but also say that a cloned human could face serious health problems and abnormalities, Siegel said. On those grounds, he said he has a responsibility to find out if the child is healthy and is being cared for.

Siegel said Clonaid is a “rogue company” and he has been unable to find an office address for it or to find its registered agents or other basic information about it. Clonaid has said in media interviews that it will continue to hide the child, he said.

The judge said Tuesday that Clonaid, by announcing to the world that a child had been cloned, has raised concerns for her welfare. The company should have information about where the child is and how it was produced, Frusciante said, and DCF should be able to investigate whether the child is safe and healthy.

But Frusciante hinted there may be limits to what he can do if there is no evidence that the child was either born or created in Florida or that the baby’s parents lived here. “I don’t know what I have here. I don’t know if anybody knows what we have here.”

Several times during the hearing, the judge and attorneys noted that the case is unique. This is the first time a court has tried to determine the welfare of a supposedly cloned child.

At one point, the judge asked Clonaid’s attorneys if they had seen the child. “Of course not,” they replied. Then Frusciante asked if the child exists. “I have no idea,” Schwartz answered.

When questions were raised about whether dependency and child custody laws apply to a cloned child, Siegel said that when Florida’s laws were written cloning wasn’t even “the slightest dot on the horizon.”

In the dependency court system, which tries to safeguard potentially endangered children, workers often say they are upholding the state’s responsibility to hear the cry for help of the child next door.

“This is not the cry of the child next door,” Frusciante said. “The state of Florida has the responsibility to hear the cries of perhaps help from a child not able to make that noise themselves.”

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Religion News Blog posted this on Wednesday January 22, 2003.
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