A New York judge who granted two research chimps a writ of habeas corpus, effectively recognizing them as legal persons, later amended her ruling, striking out the term "writ of habeas corpus." It is now unclear whether Hercules and Leo, the chimps at Stony Brook University, can challenge their detention.

The journal Science, which has been reporting on this story, notes that the order suggests "the court has made no decision on whether Hercules and Leo ... deserve to be treated as legal persons."

As we told you Tuesday, Manhattan Supreme Court Justice Barbara Jaffe's order, dated April 20, required the university to appear in court and provide a legally sufficient reason for keeping the two chimps, Hercules and Leo. A hearing, which was scheduled for May 6, has been pushed back until May 27.

The Nonhuman Rights Project, the group that brought the suit on behalf of the two chimps, responded to the amended order, saying:

"This case is one of a trio of cases that the Nonhuman Rights Project has brought in an attempt to free chimpanzees imprisoned within the State of New York through an 'Article 70–Habeas Corpus' proceeding. These cases are novel and this is the first time that an Order to Show Cause has [sic] issued. We are grateful for an opportunity to litigate the issue of the freedom of the chimpanzees, Hercules and Leo, at the ordered May hearing."

Stony Brook University, in an emailed statement, said: "The University does not comment on the specifics of litigation, and awaits the court's full consideration on this matter."

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