MANHATTAN (CN) – Still closer than ever to getting a writ of habeas corpus, two chimpanzees held captive at Stony Brook University may want to convene with their publicists before the next press release hits the wire on their behalf.
On Monday, the Nonhuman Rights Project announced that their clients Hercules and Leo entered chimp history.
Manhattan Supreme Court Judge Barbara Jaffe signed what they trumpeted as an unprecedented order to show cause, scheduling a hearing to determine whether they have been “unlawfully detained.”
If she finds the detention unlawful, Jaffe could order “their immediate release and transfer forthwith to Save the Chimps,” the order stated.
The parties to the lawsuit immediately disputed the significance of Jaffe’s threadbare order.
The Nonhuman Rights Project told the public that the judge had granted the chimps a writ of habeas corpus.
Since the original document had been titled an “Order to Show Cause & Writ of Habeas Corpus,” the animal rights group reasoned that only “legal persons” can receive the ear of the court granted then.
“The court has therefore implicitly determined that Hercules and Leo are ‘persons,'” the group said.
Proving their celebration to be premature, Jaffe crossed out the part about the writ of habeas corpus to clarify the chimpanzees had not yet met their burden, and the New York Post reported that the court’s attorney denounced the “inaccurate press release.”
In a phone interview, the chimps’ lead attorney Stephen Wise noted that the only difference between the two orders was the crossing out of the writ.
Even forcing Stony Brook into court for a hearing is a victory for the chimps denied to them in their past three attempts, Wise said.
“We failed the last three times to get a judge to issue anything that forced them to do that,” he noted.
Stony Brook spokeswoman Laura Sheprow remained tight-lipped about the case.
“The university does not comment on the specifics of litigation, and awaits the court’s full consideration on this matter,” she said.
Hercules and Leo are being studied for a more than $1.8 million grant on the evolution of locomotion, Wise said, adding, “We believe that’s an insufficient reason for enslaving chimpanzees.”
The Nonhuman Rights Project spoke at length about the future they imagine for the chimps.
“[We have] asked that Hercules and Leo be freed and released into the care of Save the Chimps, a sanctuary in Ft. Pierce, Florida,” their press release states. “There they will spend the rest of their lives primarily on one of 13 artificial islands on a large lake in Ft. Pierce, Florida along with 250 other chimpanzees in an environment as close to that of their natural home in Africa as can be found in North America.”
New York Attorney General Eric Schneiderman, who represents the state university, did not respond to a request for comment by press time.
Wise said that the hearing date has been moved to March 27.
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