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Religion News Report

July 15, 2000 (Vol. 4, Issue 229) - 1/2

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=== Waco / Branch Davidians
1. Immunity Helped Turn Waco Trial
2. U.S. not responsible, Davidian jury says
3. Advisory jury rejects Davidians' wrongful death lawsuit
4. Jury Finds Government Not to Blame for Deaths at Waco
5. Jury: Feds not liable Judge will have last word on Davidian
wrongful-death suit
6. Davidians: No justice in Waco; Plaintiff's attorney: Fair trial impossible
7. Smith tries to 'set record straight,' denies turning jury against
Davidians
8. Feds Heartened by Waco Verdict
9. Davidians didn't expect to beat government
10. Jury's findings reverberate across capital, country
11. What the jury decided
12. Waco Trial Chronology
13. Waco: What's next

=== Movement for the Restoration of the Ten Commandments of God
14. Uganda Fire Creates Nightmares

» Part 2

=== Islam
15. Behind The Veil
16. Farrakhan Seeks Million Family March

=== Jehovah's Witnesses
17. Blood is thicker than dogma
18. Terek Cossacks prevent Jehovah Witnesses congress in Russian
southern territory

=== International Churches of Christ
19. Schools warned over cults

=== Jesus Christians
20. Find teenage boy who ran off to join cult, orders judge
21. Fears for youth missing with cult
22. Cult denies 'brainwashing' boy

=== Hate Groups
23. Aryans plan gathering this weekend
24. Police prepare for Aryan Nations trial
25. Accused bombers choose prison over trial
26. Jewish Group Burns Flags
27. Man Given 4 Years Under New Jersey Hate Crimes Law for 1999 Incident

=== Other News
28. Court: Parents in repressed memory case can't sue
29. Farm plays host to a low-profile sect (Two by Twos)

=== Science
30. Medical students reject Darwin
31. Kansas poll evolves into a debate on Darwin
32. One nation, not quite under God

=== Death Penalty / Human Rights Violations
33. Bush, Minister Spar on Death Penalty
34. Bush Defends the Death Penalty to a Religious Audience

=== Books
35. Religion: A Closer Look at Evangelicals


=== Waco / Branch Davidians

1. Immunity Helped Turn Waco Trial
AOL/AP, July 15, 2000
http://my.aol.com/news/story.tmpl?
table=n&cat=01&id=0007150319823821
Off-site Link
[Story no longer online? Read this]
WACO, Texas (AP) - Long before an advisory jury decided the federal government was not responsible for the deaths of Branch Davidians in the Waco siege, U.S. attorneys had turned the case in their favor.

By invoking a federal law known as the discretionary function exemption, they eliminated several allegations in the $675 million wrongful death lawsuit brought by survivors of the 1993 siege and relatives of those who died. That exemption gives federal officials room to make judgment calls and carry them out without fear of being sued, even if their decisions prove to be bad.

''Even before we got to trial, the case was whittled down significantly to relatively narrow legal issues, in large part because a lot of the things we did are protected by the nature of discretionary function,'' said Thom Mrozek, a Department of Justice spokesman.
(...)

On Friday, a five-member jury decided the government did not use excessive force in its attempt to serve search and arrest warrants on Branch Davidian leader David Koresh on Feb. 28, 1993. A gun battle broke out and four Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms agents as well as six Davidians were killed.

Jurors also decided the government's actions on April 19, 1993, the final day of the siege, were not negligent and did not contribute to the deaths of about 80 sect members. The government said suicidal sect members started fires in the building and were responsible for their own deaths.

U.S. District Judge Walter Smith doesn't have to follow the jury's advice. He will make his final ruling after he considers whether federal agents shot at the Davidians at the end of the siege.

The plaintiffs say they don't expect any change.

Federal attorneys persuaded Smith last year that the FBI's decision to tear gas the compound on April 19 to force the Davidians out was a discretionary function.

Also taken out of consideration were tactics used during the standoff to persuade Davidians to surrender, such as turning off the electricity and playing loud music.

Even with such absolution, the case got a full airing, said U.S. Attorney Mike Bradford.

''Discretionary function played a role,'' Bradford said. ''But most issues went to the jury and judge. It was fairly tried and the judge let all the other issues go to the jury.''

Lead plaintiffs' attorney Michael Caddell disagreed: ''There was a lot of evidence we didn't get to present.''

Originally, the federal government was nearly untouchable in liability suits. The concept that the government could do no wrong - sovereign immunity - was a holdover from English law when kings were considered infallible.

Congress changed that in 1946.
(...)

Baylor University professor Bill Underwood said the jurors' decision in the Waco trial was significant even though some aspects were never presented to the panel.

''It is hard to sue the federal government,'' Underwood said. ''But understand, while the government has the right to be wrong, if the government fails to exercise reasonable care in executing policy it can be held liable.''

The discretionary function privilege ''left the plaintiffs with plenty of room to challenge the government's conduct,'' Underwood said. ''Given that latitude, it's significant that the government was vindicated.''
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2. U.S. not responsible, Davidian jury says
Dallas Morning News, July 15, 2000
http://dallasnews.com/texas_southwest/111922_waco_15tex.htmlOff-site Link
[Story no longer online? Read this]
WACO - Federal authorities were not responsible for the gunfight that began the Branch Davidian siege or the deadly fire that ended it in 1993, a five-member advisory jury ruled Friday.

Government lawyers said the decision, reached after 21/2 hours of deliberations, vindicates federal actions in the nation's deadliest law enforcement tragedy and should end seven years of controversy over the siege.

''The Branch Davidians started the fire, burned down their own complex, and caused this tragedy to happen. I think what this shows is that the responsibility for this tragedy is with David Koresh and the Branch Davidians,'' said U.S. Attorney Mike Bradford of Beaumont, who headed the government's defense team in the Branch Davidians' wrongful-death lawsuit.
(...)

Lead plaintiffs' attorney Michael Caddell of Houston said he views the decision as final, even though U.S. District Judge Walter Smith reminded both sides Friday that the jury verdict was only advisory and he alone would make the final decision in the case.

Mr. Caddell said he will not pursue the sole undecided issue in the case: whether government agents fired guns at the Davidian compound and cut off escape routes when it burned on April 19, 1993.

Other lawyers involved in the lawsuit indicated that they still plan to pursue the issue, which Judge Smith has tentatively set for two days of hearings in early August.

''It's over,'' Mr. Caddell said. ''I'm not someone who pursues lost causes,'' he said, adding that he told the court late Friday afternoon of his decision.

''We recognize that there will be no judgment issued by Judge Smith against the government,'' he said. ''I think the vast majority of the American people will take this as the final word.''
(...)

On Friday, jurors retired about 12:30 p.m. to answer a series of questions put to them by Judge Smith. By 3 p.m., the three women and two men on the panel had unanimously agreed that the ATF had not fired indiscriminately or used excessive force. They also agreed that the FBI tanks' actions were not negligent and did not contribute to the fire, and that the FBI commanders were not negligent in their decision not to try to fight any fires at the compound during the tear gas assault.

In a striking break from most jury trials in state and federal courts, Judge Smith dismissed jurors and had them escorted out of the building before announcing their verdict.

''The jurors have informed me that it is their unanimous decision that they have no desire to talk to anyone, attorneys or news media,'' said Judge Smith. ''They have already left the building and won't be available.''

From the beginning, when jury selection began June 19, Judge Smith ordered that jurors remain anonymous.

Friday, he sternly reminded both sides before closing arguments that the jury's verdict would only be advisory. Speaking at length to the packed courtroom, the judge expressed amazement that Mr. Caddell had told reporters the previous day that he viewed the judge's planned jury instructions in the case as an attempt to ''engineer'' a verdict favorable to the government.

On Thursday, Mr. Caddell said the judge's decision to lump all sect members together in one group - instead of asking jurors to consider each individual's actions during the standoff - ignored the law. He said the judge's instructions also failed to follow Texas law, which applies in the case under the federal statute that allows private lawsuits against government agencies.

But the visibly angry judge disputed that criticism at length Friday morning, noting that it was Congress that decided not to allow the issues in the case to be decided solely by a jury. Federal laws dictating when government agencies can be sued require that such litigation be decided by judges, but federal judges do have discretion to impanel advisory juries.

''First of all, I have not in any way tried to engineer the jury instructions or the verdict form in order to have a particular result happen. I have tried to simplify the jury charge to get to the bottom line in the issues that are of interest to me and the public in this case,'' he said. ''A jury makes a decision. The jury advises the court. I can take its advice or I can reject it. I consider their verdict to the extent that I want to.''
(...)

Lawyers for the plaintiffs repeatedly told jurors that the government must be held at least partially responsible for the awful deaths of the sect's children. More than 20 died, but government lawyers introduced autopsy reports during the trial that showed five of the children died of gunshots and one was stabbed.

James Brannon, a Houston lawyer representing the estates of three of Mr. Koresh's children killed in the fire, conceded that the children might have been ''no more than hostages for their parents.''

But he ridiculed the response of the FBI and its Hostage Rescue Team. ''Their idea of rescue is knowingly putting gas in on children who have no gas masks?'' he said. ''First, you rescue the innocent.''

Mr. Caddell asked jurors to consider how their decision might affect the lives of other children caught up in future conflicts between the government and ''evil'' madmen like Mr. Koresh.

''The scariest thing in this case is that there will be another David Koresh,'' Mr. Caddell said. ''So this case is about the next children who will be with the next David Koresh, and the next, and the next. What we do here ... will determine what happens to those next children.''

But Mr. Bradford said the Davidians alone sealed their children's fates, and he ridiculed efforts to blame government decisions and actions.

''What would've happened if they hadn't decided to put that tear gas in? What if David Koresh had done something like Jonestown, and he'd poisoned everyone - he'd poisoned all the children?'' he said. ''We'd be here today with a group of lawyers saying, 'Why didn't you go in with tear gas?'''
[...more...]   [Need the full story? Read this]
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3. Advisory jury rejects Davidians' wrongful death lawsuit
St. Louis Post-Dispatch, July 14, 2000
http://www.postnet.com/'+wrongful+death+lawsuit
(...) U.S. District Judge Walter S. Smith Jr. noted that the jury's verdict was advisory. ''I can use it in any manner I see fit,'' he said. But both sides expect Smith to agree with the jury.

''It's over,'' said Mike Caddell, the lead lawyer for the Davidians. ''I think the vast majority of American people will take this as the final word.''

Caddell said he wondered how the jury's verdict would affect the investigation by special counsel John C. Danforth, who is conducting an independent inquiry.

''It will be interesting whether Senator Danforth will be influenced by the verdict. It will make it easier for Senator Danforth to conclude there was no government wrongdoing,'' Caddell said.

J. Michael Bradford, the U.S. attorney from Beaumont, Texas, who engineered the government victory, called it a ''vindication for the law enforcement officers who were doing their duty ... under dangerous conditions.''
(...)

In his closing argument to the jury, Bradford painstakingly reviewed the evidence showing that the complex ''erupted with gunfire'' when agents tried to serve the search warrant. And he stressed that the Davidians set fire to the complex themselves and could have come out at any time during the 51-day siege.
(...)

Bradford said the pictures of dead Davidian children made him ''very sad and very angry because those children ... would be alive today but for a man who thought he was Jesus Christ.''

''David Koresh and Branch Davidians caused one of the most terrible and horrible events in our history and then they come in here and want to be awarded a judgment. That would be wrong,'' Bradford said.

The suit went to the jury Friday with the warning from Ramsey Clark, a lawyer for some of the Davidians, that ''no one will be free from the violence of their own government'' if the government is cleared. Clark, who was attorney general in the 1960s under President Lyndon Johnson, called Waco ''the greatest domestic law enforcement tragedy in the history of the United States.''

After the verdict, Caddell reiterated his criticism of the judge's instructions to the jury, which lumped together innocent Davidian children with Koresh, whom Caddell called evil. He said that charge had the ''single most important impact on the case.'' But he stopped short of saying the trial was unfair.

Smith said he will announce his decision in the case early next month when he takes up the one issue not put to the jury: whether FBI agents fired at the Davidians on April 19, 1993.

On Aug. 2, Smith plans to hear testimony from David Oxlee, an infrared expert who conducted a simulation of the Waco siege in March. Oxlee concluded that flashes on an infrared tape made on April 19, 1993, are not from guns.

After the advisory verdict, Caddell said he may not press the gunfire issue. ''I'm not someone who pursues lost causes,'' he said.
[...more...]   [Need the full story? Read this]
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4. Jury Finds Government Not to Blame for Deaths at Waco
New York Times, July 15, 2000
http://www.nytimes.com/library/national/071500waco-case.htmlOff-site Link
[Story no longer online? Read this]
WACO, Tex., July 14 -- In a striking victory for the government, an advisory panel of five jurors took slightly more than an hour today to find that federal officials were not liable in the deaths of nearly 80 Branch Davidians who were killed in the 1993 raid and standoff at the sect's compound near Waco.

Federal officials portrayed the jury's finding as a vindication for them in an episode that provided one of the darkest chapters in the history of federal law enforcement, threatened the career of Attorney General Janet Reno and continues to generate criticism. The lawsuit itself represents a six-year legal struggle that ultimately became a highly publicized test of the government's credibility.
(...)

The swift verdict, which came after a month of testimony, may not be the final word on the case, however.

Federal District Judge Walter S. Smith, who is presiding over the trial, will ultimately decide the outcome of the wrongful-death suit. Earlier today, before the jury was seated, Judge Smith reminded lawyers involved, ''It's important for everyone to understand that their decision is in no way binding.''

''I intend to consider the advice of the jury, but by law I cannot be bound by it,'' he said.

Federal law allows for advisory panels in cases in which the government is being sued. Judge Smith limited the jury's role to that advisory capacity. Lawyers involved in the case today said they could not recall an instance in which a judge overruled a jury's advisory finding.

Judge Smith will not make his ruling until at least next month, after he hears another part of the case determining whether federal agents fired into the Branch Davidians' Mount Carmel compound as it was consumed by flames on April 19, 1993. That issue will be decided by him alone.
(...)

Closing arguments from both sides in the case, delivered earlier today, were steeped in outrage.

''The scariest thing about this trial is that there will be another David Koresh,'' Michael Caddell, the lead plaintiff's lawyer, told jurors. ''This case is about the children. It's too late to save the children of Mount Carmel. What you do here will determine what happens to those next children.''
(...)

During his final argument defending the government, J. Michael Bradford, the United States attorney, told the jury the events at Mount Carmel were ''a terrible tragedy.''

''Those children should be alive today, would be alive, but for the actions of a man who thought he was Jesus Christ,'' he said, referring to Mr. Koresh.

''We should be shocked and outraged by the conduct of David Koresh and the Branch Davidians. Instead, we have this lawsuit that seeks to validate their actions.''
(...)

Mr. Caddell said he thought the jury was likely swayed by ''all the guns'' the sect kept at the compound.

When asked if he would appeal the verdict, Mr. Caddell hesitated and said, ''As a a practical matter, when you get a verdict, it's over.''
(...)

Arguments in the case were delayed this morning while Judge Smith responded to accusations Mr. Caddell made on Thursday that the judge was trying to ''engineer a verdict'' through the four-part questionnaires he had prepared for the jury.

''I want to set the record straight,'' Judge Smith said. ''I have not in any way tried to engineer a jury charge. I have tried to simplify the issues.''

Some of those involved in the case said Judge Smith's narrow jury charge, and the limitations he placed on evidence during the trial, may have kept jurors and the public from getting all relevant facts in the case.

''I'm terribly, terribly frustrated by the way this case has gone,'' said Ramsey Clark, a lawyer for the plaintiffs and former attorney general in the Johnson administration, before the jury reached its verdict.

''This isn't a negligence case, it's a constitutional case. How do you drive a tank into a church dozens of times and then call it negligence? The government has made the victims into the violators,'' he said.

David Thibodeau, a Branch Davidian who survived the fire, also expressed frustration. ''It's outrageous that after two Congressional hearings and the criminal trial they are still limiting what the public knows about this case. It'll be another 20 years before we find out what really happened,'' he said.

Ms. Reno appointed former Senator John Danforth as special counsel last September to conduct an investigation of the Mount Carmel events; that inquiry continues, and it is not known when he will make his report.
[...more...]   [Need the full story? Read this]
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5. Jury: Feds not liable. Judge will have last word on Davidian wrongful-death suit
Waco Tribune-Herald, July 14, 2000
http://www.accesswaco.com/Off-site Link
[Story no longer online? Read this]
(...) U.S. Attorney Mike Bradford of Beaumont, the government's co-lead counsel, said he hopes the jury's verdict will put the controversy over Mount Carmel to rest. Bradford was flanked by 14 government attorneys and staff members as he talked to the press after the trial.
(...)

Lead plaintiffs' attorney Mike Caddell of Houston said he was unsure if he would appeal the verdict, which is an advisory verdict to assist Smith, who will issue the final judgment in the case later.

The judge removed from the trial the issue of whether FBI agents fired into Mount Carmel on the final day because a key expert witness was not available for the trial.

On Friday, the judge set a tentative hearing date for Aug. 2 to hear testimony from David Oxlee, a specialist in infrared tape analysis from England who works for Vector Data System and who is recovering from recent cancer surgery.

The judge indicated he would issue a judgment in the entire case after hearing Oxlee's analysis of a March gunfire recreation at Fort Hood that was captured on infrared cameras. The recreation did not prove the plaintiffs' claims of government gunfire on April 19.
(...)

Caddell hinted after the trial that he might not pursue the allegations pending over the gunfire issue.

''I understand the judge has his decision to make and the jury is advisory, but I think from a practical matter, we would recognize that there will be no judgment against the government issued by Judge Smith,'' Caddell said. ''I wouldn't be foolish enough to suggest otherwise.''

Caddell was critical of the judge's instructions to the jury, charging that they were designed to elicit a verdict favorable to the government. The judge angrily denied those claims Friday morning before bringing in the jury.

''I am not someone who pursues lost causes,'' Caddell said. ''I think there are enough causes that can be won that you don't have to pursue the lost ones, generally. But I also think that sometimes, as a matter of principle, you take cases that are very, very tough, and we knew this was going to be a tough case.

''We knew that once we were transferred to Waco, it would be tough. We didn't file this case in Waco. We offered to move this case to any court in the Western District other than this court. We went to the Supreme Court to try to get Judge Smith recused. So that may tell you a little bit how hard the government fought to get this case tried in front of this judge and how hard we fought to keep it from being tried in front of this judge,'' Caddell said.

Bradford, who was brought into the case when U.S. Attorney Bill Blagg of San Antonio removed his office from the case, said he hopes the trial will bring to a close a tragic chapter in American history.
(...)

Caddell said he thinks that the ''vast majority'' of Americans will take the verdict as the final word on Mount Carmel.
(...)

The final word, however, may belong to former Missouri Sen. John Danforth, Caddell said. Attorney General Janet Reno appointed Danforth as special counsel to review the FBI's actions at Mount Carmel on April 19, 1993.

''I think Senator Danforth has got some issues that he is looking at similar to the issues we raised,'' Caddell said. ''Whether this verdict will influence his decision, I don't know. I'm sure he would deny that. But the reality is that a jury verdict like this makes it easier for Senator Danforth to conclude that there was no government wrongdoing.''
(...)

Bradford told the jury repeatedly during his closing statements Friday morning that the Davidians were under a spell cast by Koresh, yet could have come out of Mount Carmel at any time during the 51-day standoff.

To illustrate Koresh's hold over his followers, Bradford reminded the jury of testimony relating to the death of Davidian Perry Jones, who was shot in the stomach during the initial raid and refused medical attention offered by the government. He said the 64-year-old Jones sent a message to Koresh asking if he could commit suicide to end his suffering. He died from a gunshot wound to the mouth.

''Just like you had to get permission to do anything at Mount Carmel, you even had to get permission to kill yourself from David Koresh,'' Bradford said.
(...)

After the verdict, Caddell said he hopes the message to law enforcement is not a negative one.

''If it does send a message to law enforcement, it would be a bad one,'' he said. ''It would be one that sounds like tanks are OK and knocking a building down like that and ignoring a plan that had been carefully thought out is acceptable. I hope that that message is not being sent to law enforcement because that would be pretty frightening, frankly.''
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6. Davidians: No justice in Waco; Plaintiff's attorney: Fair trial impossible
Waco Tribune-Herald, July 14, 2000
http://www.accesswaco.com/Off-site Link
[Story no longer online? Read this]
Survivors of the tragedy at Mount Carmel and relatives of Branch Davidians who died in the blaze said Friday they did not expect to find justice in Waco.

The plaintiffs in the wrongful-death case against the government blamed Waco residents, U.S. District Judge Walter Smith and federal agents after the five-member advisory jury returned a verdict Friday against the Davidians.

Ramsey Clark, a former U.S. attorney general who represented some of the plaintiffs, huddled outside the courtroom after the verdict with Davidians and their relatives, telling them they could not have received a fair trial in Waco.

Jurors were making a statement, on behalf of the Waco community, by deliberating less than three hours to arrive at a verdict, Clark said.

''It's a statement (saying), 'We don't like people like that,' '' Clark said. ''Religion is a factor, but the demonization of that is part of it.''
(...)

Bonnie Haldeman, Koresh's mother, said jurors had their minds made up before they began deliberating.

''I think there's a lot of good people in Waco . . . but I think what you hear mostly is the voice of the few,'' Haldeman said. ''I'm not disappointed. If you don't expect something, you can't be disappointed . . . The jury was sort of a farce, anyway.''

Sherry Burgo, whose father Floyd Houtman died in the 1993 fire, said the jury's verdict was as painful for her as the day the Mount Carmel compound went up in flames, though in a different way.
(...)

''It wasn't fair from the beginning. We weren't allowed to bring in evidence to present the case. All our evidence was destroyed at Mount Carmel.''

The Burgos blame Smith for rulings that prevented the plaintiffs from presenting evidence that the fire did not destroy. They blamed the federal government for covering up its actions.

''How do you try a case when you see a judge being one-sided?'' Kenneth Burgo said. ''This here was just a big joke to (the federal government). They knew they were going to railroad this case before they even got here.''

For Branch Davidian Sheila Martin of Waco, Friday's verdict against the Davidians was a reflection of people's rejection of the sect's religious beliefs.
(...)

Branch Davidian Clive Doyle of Waco, who escaped the fire and later was acquitted in the 1994 criminal trial, said the verdict was not unexpected.

''I saw it coming for the whole month,'' Doyle said. ''I didn't expect anything different with the way it was set up with all the restrictions the judge put on the case.''

The lesson to be learned from the trial is to try to avoid a confrontation with the government, which will win in the end, Doyle said.

''The message is that you better not be on the receiving end of the government.'' he said. ''They demonize you and justify anything they want to do to you.

Doyle, who lost an 18-year-old daughter in the fire, said he doesn't think the trial will put to rest any of the questions remaining from Mount Carmel.

''I don't think it will change anybody's mind. There are still those questions out there,'' he said.
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7. Smith tries to 'set record straight,' denies turning jury against Davidians
Waco Tribune-Herald, July 14, 2000
http://www.accesswaco.com/Off-site Link
[Story no longer online? Read this]
U.S. District Judge Walter S. Smith Jr. of Waco, ruddy complexion aside, was seeing red when he walked into federal court Friday. The morning newspapers carried lead plaintiffs attorney Mike Caddell's comment that Smith was trying to engineer a verdict against the Branch Davidians in their wrongful-death lawsuit against the government.

Caddell took exception to Smith's instructions to the advisory jury, which later in the day would find for the government.

Smith didn't differentiate in the jury charge between men, women and children. Instead, when asking jurors what degree of responsibility those at Mount Carmel bore for what happened seven years ago, Smith referred to ''the Davidians,'' as a group.

You didn't need to read faces to gauge Smith's reaction to Caddell's comment. Upon sitting down, Smith granted a government motion. When Caddell stood up to respond, Smith snapped, ''Sit down, Mr. Caddell.''

Before bringing in the jury, Smith told the packed courtroom that he wanted to ''set the record straight.'' The judge said he didn't usually pay attention to media reports about trials, accusing them of often being inaccurate.

''But when I am involved in a case where there is media reporting, I do take an interest in that because I think it's important for me to know what the jury might be exposed to,'' Smith said.

Then Smith got down to the nitty-gritty. ''First of all, I have not in any way tried to engineer the jury instructions or verdict forms in order to have (certain) results,'' Smith said. ''I have tried to simplify the jury charge in order to get to the bottom line. That's all I've done.''

He explained that it ''must be remembered by those with the ability to understand'' that Congress denied those suing the government the right to a jury trial. Judges, however, can appoint advisory juries in such cases.

''Congress simply did not trust juries to decide cases where the government is being sued,'' Smith said. He then asked how many lawyers in the courtroom had been involved in cases with advisory juries, which provide a judge issuing a verdict an idea of how the community feels about the issue.

Only Caddell raised his hand. It was a tactical error. ''That absolutely amazes me, Mr. Caddell, because you're the one who seems to have absolutely no understanding of the process,'' Smith told him.
(...)

After the jury left at noon to deliberate, Smith had one more thing to say about Caddell's accusation that he had lumped all the Davidians together.

''I fully recognize that there are differences between children, old people and active shooters,'' Smith said. ''All that will be taken into consideration, sorted out and determined by me.''
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8. Feds Heartened by Waco Verdict
AOL/AP, July 14, 2000
http://my.aol.com/news/Off-site Link
[Story no longer online? Read this]
WASHINGTON (AP) - The Clinton administration Justice Department, criticized harshly in some quarters for its handling of the standoff with the Branch Davidians at Waco seven years ago, praised a jury's verdict Friday absolving the government of liability.

''This terrible tragedy was the responsibility of David Koresh and the Branch Davidians, not the federal government,'' the department said in a terse statement. ''We are pleased the jury affirmed that view.''

FBI Director Louis Freeh elaborated.

''There has been a lot of speculation, misinformation and second-guessing over the past seven years and I am grateful that this trial and other actions by the court allowed the allegations to be aired and the facts to be proved,'' he said in a statement.
(...)

Freeh said he considered the loss of life at Waco ''tragic.'' But he also said that ''as the jury heard, there were FBI agents who risked their lives to save the lives of Branch Davidians.''
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9. Davidians didn't expect to beat government
Dallas Morning News, July 15, 2000
http://dallasnews.com/texas_southwest/Off-site Link
[Story no longer online? Read this]
WACO - Branch Davidians accepted with a sense of resignation the news that a federal jury doesn't believe the government was responsible for the tragic events in Waco.

Citing what they call a history of victimization by the federal government, members of the religious sect said the verdict was consistent with the pattern.

''It's kind of like the Kennedy assassination: You have the official version and whatever everybody else believes,'' Branch Davidian Clive Doyle said Friday. ''The American public needs to be thinking and praying that they are not next on the list.''
(...)

Before and during the trial, survivors said their religious practices and beliefs may be unorthodox, but they were a peaceful group living under the guidance of their self-proclaimed messiah, David Koresh, when federal agents tried to arrest him on weapons charges Feb. 28, 1993. A gunbattle erupted, leaving four agents and six Davidians dead on the first day of the 51-day siege.
(...)

''At least we have a chance to appeal ... Maybe the next time we'll be able to prove the case,'' Ms. Burgo said outside the federal courthouse in downtown Waco. ''We got to be strong.''

David Koresh's mother, Bonnie Haldeman, said the Branch Davidians didn't expect anything different, but she added, ''God is still in control.''

''We're fighting the government, my God, what do you expect?''

The Davidians said they had hoped the trial was at last a chance to seek some vindication or balance to their image. But many are now sorely disappointed that the opportunity was lost as government attorneys battered apart their portrayal of life at Mount Carmel during the monthlong $675 million suit.

During the trial, government attorneys introduced testimony that Mr. Koresh systematically prepared his followers to be ''God's army'' against the ''Assyrians,'' a reference to Old Testament ''enemies'' of God's chosen people. Those enemies, government attorneys argued, were the federal authorities who first arrived at Mount Carmel to search for illegal weapons and to arrest Mr. Koresh.

U.S. Attorney Mike Bradford, the government's lead lawyer, said that was the cornerstone of the government's defense because the sect's violence was driven by what Mr. Koresh taught. ''The problem here is with the Branch Davidians. They purchased 300 weapons. About 50 of them were illegal, and they violated the law. And when ATF agents came to enforce the law, they killed them.

''Our complaint is not with their beliefs. It's with their actions. If the Davidians wanted to believe in David Koresh, that's certainly their right. But it doesn't give them the right to violate the law and resist arrest and burn that compound down and kill all those children.''

But plaintiffs' lawyer Michael Caddell said that the government's presentation was aimed at prejudicing jurors.

''I do think religion has been put on trial here,'' Mr. Caddell said. ''What the government is trying to do is create some sort of religious intolerance on the part of the jury ... The government is trying to justify their actions by demeaning [the Davidians'] religion.''

Some surviving Davidians said they understand outsiders view their religion as strange. But they say their beliefs are simple and spring from Mr. Koresh's teachings about obedience to the word of God. ''True, our religion may have been a little different from other people, but there are different religions everywhere,'' Ms. Haldeman said. ''Anybody who knew us would say we were peaceful.''
(...)

U.S. District Judge Walter Smith abruptly cut off plaintiffs' lawyer Ramsey Clark when he tried to ask Mr. Doyle about the group's efforts to regroup and rebuild their church after the 1993 tragedy.

''What's the relevance?'' Judge Smith asked. ''It's to show that the faith goes on,'' Mr. Clark responded.

''What's the relevance of that?'' the Judge demanded. ''I think it's important to show that you can't crush religion,'' Mr. Clark said.

''That's not the purpose of this trial,'' the judge said.

But he did allow extensive testimony about how Mr. Koresh's brand of religion became increasingly militant in the months before the ATF raid.
(...)

Mr. Doyle tries to be understanding of those whose testimony reflected poorly on the Davidians.

''I can understand why some of them talked the way they did. I can't understand all of it,'' said Mr. Doyle, one of nine survivors of the April 19 fire. ''We're not supposed to be on trial, but they [the government] put us back on trial to defend themselves.''

He is less understanding of Mr. Caddell, who has conceded that the Davidians may have started one of the fires on April 19 and has told reporters that Mr. Koresh was ''an evil man.''
[...more...]   [Need the full story? Read this]
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10. Jury's findings reverberate across capital, country
Dallas Morning News, July 15, 2000
http://dallasnews.com/texas_southwest/Off-site Link
[Story no longer online? Read this]
WASHINGTON - A Texas jury's quick finding that the government bears no liability for the deadly 1993 Branch Davidian siege drew sighs of relief in federal law enforcement circles Friday and dismay in some other quarters.
(...)

Officials at the FBI, Justice Department and the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms, who have been harshly criticized over the years for their decisions at the siege near Waco, took pains not to appear jubilant.
(...)

Their quietly expressed sense of vindication wasn't shared by critics of the government's actions during the 51-day standoff, which ended with the deaths of more than 80 Branch Davidians. They expressed disappointment, saying the court's rulings before and during the trial prevented the plaintiffs from putting on their entire case.

''You've got all these unanswered questions that are going to linger,'' said Houston lawyer Jack Zimmerman, who spent time inside the Davidian retreat during the siege. ''My concern is that we've got extremists that are going to view this as a whitewash. There was really no resolution. The judge didn't let all the evidence in; the jury didn't hear everything.''

Fellow Houston lawyer Dick DeGuerin, who also went inside the compound to visit with his client Mr. Koresh, said it was inevitable that a Waco jury would find for the government.

''What's happened is the jury from Waco can't get back at David Koresh for all the embarrassment that he's caused them ... so they are blaming these other folks,'' Mr. DeGuerin said of the plaintiffs.

''This case shouldn't have been tried in Waco,'' he said, an assessment shared by Mr. Zimmerman.
(...)

ATF officials offered little public commentary. In a one-paragraph statement, the agency said the jury's recommendation was consistent with a post-siege Treasury Department investigation in 1993 that concluded ''ATF agents were ambushed and engaged in a disciplined response to this unprecedented attack on law enforcement officers.''

Michael McNulty, a Colorado filmmaker whose two Waco documentaries popularized the theory that gunfire from government positions trapped sect members inside the burning building, said he was ''bitterly disappointed'' by the jurors' decision.

''I spent seven years of my life gathering evidence, much of which was not included in the trial, and these good citizens took two-and-a-half hours to make a decision on this issue,'' said Mr. McNulty. His investigations and reports in The Dallas Morning News prompted the government last year to recant its long-standing denial that potentially incendiary tear-gas canisters were used during the standoff's final hours.
(...)

Sen. Arlen Specter, the Pennsylvania Republican who is leading a special subcommittee reinvestigating the government's conduct during the standoff, called the jury's advisory opinion ''significant'' but not ''determinative.''

''I think that this complicated case is still a long ways from being over,'' Mr. Specter said in an interview, noting that special counsel John Danforth has yet to conclude the inquiry he was asked to perform by the attorney general.

As for congressional hearings, Mr. Specter said: ''We have decided that we are going to await Senator Danforth's report.''

The appetite for renewed congressional hearings has diminished somewhat since last year, when the Justice Department's admission that pyrotechnic tear-gas devices were used touched off a furor on Capitol Hill.

The House Government Reform Committee, which also has been re-examining the Waco operation, still has not made a final decision on whether hearings will be held, a panel aide said Friday.
[...more...]   [Need the full story? Read this]
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11. What the jury decided
Dallas Morning News, July 15, 2000
http://dallasnews.com/texas_southwest/111973_juryart.htmlOff-site Link
[Story no longer online? Read this]
The jury came back after 2 1/2 hours of deliberations on Friday with an advisory verdict clearing the government of any wrongdoing during the 1993 Branch Davidian siege in Waco. Here are the questions the judge asked the jury to consider, and their unanimous answers:

1. Did the federal Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms use excessive force when its agents tried to serve search and arrest warrants on Feb. 28, 1993, at the sect's compound? In particular, did agents fire at the compound either indiscriminately or without provocation in the gunbattle that broke out?

Jury's answer: No.

2. Did the FBI act negligently in any of the following ways during its tear-gassing operation on April 19, 1993: By driving tanks into the building in ways that violated the Washington-approved gassing plan? By starting or contributing to the spread of the fire? By deciding not to have any plan to fight any fire that might break out, despite a directive from Attorney General Janet Reno to have ''sufficient emergency vehicles''?

Jury's answer: No.

NOTE: If the jurors had answered yes to ATF or FBI negligence, they would have then considered whether the government proved ''by a preponderance of the evidence'' that Branch Davidians acted negligently in resisting the ATF agents who were trying to warrants; in continuing their resistance until the siege ended on April 19; and whether they acted negligently in setting fire to the compound. They then would have assigned percentages of blame to both sides.

THE JURY
The five-man advisory jury remained anonymous throughout the four-week trial. During testimony, jurors heard from 49 live witnesses and heard more than 23 recorded depositions.

The jury served in an advisory role because federal civil cases against the government are required by law to be heard only by federal judges. Judge Walter S. Smith decided to use his judicial discretion to bring a jury to advise him because of the high profile and sensitivity of the case. He will make final decisions in the case, probably in early August.

The jury was picked from a pool of 60 people from 13 counties. They were:

A black man who works as a Waco elementary physical-education teacher.

A black woman from Copperas Cove who is a payroll accountant at Fort Hood.

A white woman from Limestone County who is a victims' assistance program employee.

A white woman who is a homemaker in Hewitt.

A white Bell County man who works as an aircraft electrician.

NOTE: Two jurors were dismissed during the trial for personal reasons. They were a white Waco man who is a property manager, and a white Bell County woman who works as a management assistant.

SOURCES: Trial documents; Dallas Morning News research
[...entire item...]


12. Waco Trial Chronology
AOL/AP, July 14, 2000
http://my.aol.com/news/Off-site Link
[Story no longer online? Read this]
Key developments in the standoff at the Branch Davidian compound near Waco, Texas, and the investigations that followed:

Feb. 28, 1993: About 76 agents from the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms move in to search the complex and arrest leader David Koresh on illegal weapons charges. Four agents are killed and 16 wounded in gun battles. Six Davidians are killed and several wounded, including Koresh.

April 19, 1993: The compound burns to the ground after FBI agents in an armored vehicle smash the buildings and pump in tear gas. Justice Department says cult members set the fire. Nine members survive; about 80 are believed dead.

October 1993: A review of the FBI's tear-gas assault exonerates the FBI and Justice Department. Later, Harvard professor Alan Stone files a dissenting report blaming the FBI.

February 1994: Jury convicts five Branch Davidians of voluntary manslaughter and two of weapons charges.

April 1995: Several civil lawsuits filed by family members of Branch Davidians and survivors are consolidated and transferred to U.S. District Judge Walter Smith, who presided over the criminal trial.

July 1995: Two congressional subcommittees hold joint hearings over 10 days in an attempt to provide ''a full accounting'' of what happened at the compound.

August 1996: A federal appeals court upholds the convictions of six Davidians, saying federal agents did not use excessive force in trying to arrest Koresh.

July 1999: Smith pares the number of defendants and plaintiffs in the wrongful death lawsuit, but rules that the case can reach trial.

August 1999: Retreating from its past denials, the FBI acknowledges that federal agents fired one or more incendiary tear gas rounds during the standoff with Davidians, after a documentary researcher finds potentially incendiary devices among evidence. Later, federal prosecutor Bill Johnston, one of the lawyers for the government in the wrongful-death lawsuit, sends a letter to Attorney General Janet Reno saying government lawyers had known for years about the use of pyrotechnic tear-gas rounds.

September 1999: Johnston is removed from the case, which is then assigned to U.S. Attorney Michael Bradford. Meanwhile, former Sen. John Danforth, R-Mo., opens an independent inquiry ordered by Reno into whether the FBI started the deadly fire and later tried to cover its actions.

October 1999: An expert retained by a House committee concludes that videotape of the standoff shows the FBI fired shots on the siege's final day, contrary to the bureau's insistence its agents did not fire a single round. Plaintiffs' lawyers later propose recreating aspects of the siege's final hours.

April 24: Judge announces that court expert's preliminary study of infrared videotapes made during the final hours of the siege found no firearm muzzle flashes from either federal agents or cult members.

May 10: Court experts release final report on the simulation of aspects of the siege, which finds that flashes seen on a videotape were sunlight reflecting off debris, not government gunfire.

June 12: Smith decides the question of whether government agents fired on Branch Davidians during the final hours of the siege will not be considered by the advisory jury. Instead, Smith rules he'll take up the issue later when a court-appointed expert - who was ill and could not attend the trial - is available to provide testimony.

June 19: The $675 million wrongful death lawsuit against the government begins.

Friday: An advisory jury decides the government bears no responsibility for the deaths of the Davidians. Smith takes the jury's decision under advisement, saying he will issue his final ruling when he takes up the gunfire issue.
[...entire item...]


13. Waco: What's next
Dallas Morning News, July 15, 2000
http://dallasnews.com/texas_southwest/112215_waconext15.htmlOff-site Link
[Story no longer online? Read this]
Judge Walter Smith will consider the jury's advice and issue a final ruling possibly as soon as August. He must decide whether federal agents were responsible for the gunfight that left four agents and six Branch Davidians dead in 1993 and whether the government was responsible for the fire 51 days later during which more than 80 Davidians died.

Judge Smith will also rule on an issue that was not part of the trial: whether agents shot into the burning compound, thereby preventing Branch Davidians from escaping.

Former Sen. John Danforth, special counsel appointed by Attorney General Janet Reno, plans to issue a report this fall exploring what he called ''dark questions'' about the government's role in the siege.

A House committee and a separate Senate committee investigating the government's role in the siege have not set dates for hearings.
[...entire item...]


=== Movement for the Restoration of the Ten Commandments of God

14. Uganda Fire Creates Nightmares
Yahoo/AP, July 14, 2000
http://dailynews.yahoo.com/Off-site Link
[Story no longer online? Read this]
KANUNGU, Uganda (AP) - Wilson Begamanya has had nightmares since his 70-year-old father was called to pray and ended up in an inferno set by leaders of the Restoration of the Ten Commandments of God.

''I have been going through dreams of death since that day. My father and I lived alone. The cult leader sent someone to fetch him for prayers. I was also invited, but I refused. Moments later, I heard a terrible blast and then saw flames,'' the brickmaker said.

His mud and wattle house stands alone, separated by a gully from the cult's former compound and makeshift church in this village 217 miles from the capital, Kampala.
(...)

In Kampala, police spokesman Assuman Mugenyi said this week the number of deaths linked to the cult had been revised downward to 778 from 978 because 330 people - not 530 as had been reported - died in Kanungu.
(...)

And Mugenyi said police believe cult leader Joseph Kibwetere might have been murdered by two of his deputies, Dominic Kataribabo and Credonia Mwerinda, who are believed to be on the run.

''He might have been murdered by Mwerinde and Kataribaabo before the fire. We cannot tell the exact reason, but there might have been some disagreement,'' Mugenyi said.

This week, the state prosecutor requested an extension to Aug. 14 of the arrest warrant for Kibwetere and six other cult leaders.
[...more...]   [Need the full story? Read this]
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» Continued in Part 2

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