FindLaw Investigations - Waco
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 FindLaw Commentary
by Solomon L. Wisenberg of Solomon L. Wisenberg, PLLC L.L.P.

  • The Advisory Verdict
  • Waco Civil Trial Preview
  • The Curious Order of Judge Smith
  • Bill Johnston Resigns Amid Waco's Unanswered Questions
  • The Very Unusual Letter of Bill Johnston
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     Waco News Page 3 of 4 Page [1] [2] [3] [4
  • Davidian battle goes to court - U.S., sect will offer accounts of standoff  (Dallas Morning News 6/18/2000) Seven years after the deadly confrontation between federal agents and the Branch Davidians, the combatants will gather Monday in a Waco federal court to decide how much blame, if any, the government should share for the 1993 tragedy.
  • Lawsuit by Branch Davidians comes to trial  (The Post-Dispatch 6/17/00) Last fall, when John Danforth's investigators popped the lids off five-gallon containers that held "junk evidence" from the government's siege at Waco, Texas, they encountered a terrible smell.
  • Juror in sect members' federal trial applauds Supreme Court decision - Increase in prison time for use of machine guns was surprise, she says  (Associated Press 6/6/2000) A juror in the Branch Davidian criminal trial praised a ruling Monday by the U.S. Supreme Court reducing the sentences of five Davidians on weapons charges. "Oh, it's a wonderful relief," said Sarah Bain of San Antonio, the jury foreman in the 1994 criminal trial of followers of religious leader David Koresh.
  • Judges cut terms of 5 Davidians  (Dallas Morning News 6/6/2000) The Supreme Court on Monday significantly trimmed the prison terms of five Branch Davidians, ruling that a judge erred in applying a federal gun law that escalates punishment based on the firepower used.
  • Supreme Court decision could cut jailed Davidians' sentences  (Waco Tribune-Herald 6/5/00) The U.S. Supreme Court Monday reversed the lengthy prison terms given to five Branch Davidians in 1994 and sent the cases back to a federal judge in Waco. The unanimous opinion could cut the sentences of four of the five sect members from 40 to 15 years and the fifth from 20 years to 15.
  • 5 Branch Davidians' sentences set aside  (Associated Press 6/5/00) The Supreme Court Monday set aside the lengthy prison sentences given to five Branch Davidians who survived a 1993 siege at the sect's Waco, Texas, compound. The court ruled that a federal judge misused an anti-gun law to increase their punishment.
  • Davidian jury to serve in advisory role  (Waco Tribune-Herald 6/3/00) While there will be a jury in the June 19 trial on the wrongful-death lawsuit filed by surviving Branch Davidians against the federal government, U.S. District Judge Walter S. Smith Jr. of Waco won't have to follow its verdict. By statute, the jury will be a so-called advisory jury.
  • Millions of dollars spent preparing for Davidian wrongful death trial  (Waco Tribune-Herald 5/20/00) A lot of money has already been put on the line before next month's trial in Waco on the $675 million wrongful-death lawsuit filed by surviving Branch Davidians against the government. Houston attorney Mike Caddell, the lead plaintiffs attorney, estimates that his involvement in the case has cost him $4 million in time and more than $1 million out of his pocket.
  • Attorney for Davidians well connected with Washington leadership  (Waco Tribune-Herald 5/20/00) Mike Caddell's commute to work takes all of a couple of minutes, if the signal light is working. He lives at the Four Seasons, one of Houston's premier hotels. His law firm across the street occupies a corner of the 10th floor at Park Shops Mall, with a luxury-suite view of Enron Field, the Astros' new ballpark, and sports a gallery for the art collection of Caddell and his wife, Cynthia Chapman, a partner in Caddell & Chapman.
  • Davidians' arguments are rejected by judge - He says there is no sign of evidence-tampering  (Dallas Morning News 5/18/2000) The FBI might have been negligent in handling some evidence from the Branch Davidian case, but there was no indication that theagency or others in the federal government intentionally destroyed or altered key evidence from the 1993 siege, a federal judge in Waco has ruled.
  • Judge: No sanctions needed vs. government for handling of evidence in Davidian lawsuit  (Waco Tribune-Herald 5/17/00) No sanctions are warranted against the government for its handling of evidence in the wrongful-death lawsuit filed against the government by surviving Branch Davidians, U.S. District Judge Walter S. Smith Jr. of Waco ruled Wednesday.
  • Officials plan security measures in response to Davidian trial  (Waco Tribune-Herald 5/17/00) Law enforcement agencies are starting to address public safety issues that might come up during the trial of the Branch Davidian wrongful-death lawsuit against the government. Representatives from eight local, state and federal law enforcement agencies met last week at the Waco Convention Center to begin preparations for the June 19 trial in Waco's federal court.
  • Davidian lawyer: death of infrared expert a major setback in Waco trial  (CNN 5/15/00) WACO, Texas (AP) -- A lawyer representing surviving Branch Davidians in a wrongful-death lawsuit says the death of an infrared expert who contended that shots were fired by the government during the Waco siege is a major setback in the case. "We're not giving up, but I don't know how we'll replace Carlos Ghigliotti," said attorney Mike Caddell.
  • Text of report on flashes recorded at end of Waco siege  (5/12/2000) A 65-page report by court-appointed experts concludes that flashes recorded on an FBI infrared video at the end of the Branch Davidian siege came not from government or Davidian gunfire but from sunlight reflecting off glass, metal and water and from the movement of tanks and windblown debris.
  • Waco video analyzed - Sect lawyer disputes that flashes sunlight  (Dallas Morning News 5/11/2000) Flashes recorded on an FBI infrared video at the end of the Branch Davidian siege came not from government or Davidian gunfire, but from sunlight reflecting off glass, metal and water, and the movement of tanks and windblown debris, court-appointed infrared experts state.
  • Jury finds Koresh followers, ex-Davidian leader's wife not legitimate church trustees  (Associated Press 5/08/2000) WACO - A McLennan County jury has decided that neither the surviving followers of David Koresh nor the widow of another former Branch Davidian leader are legitimate trustees of the Branch Davidian church.
  • Branch Davidians' lawyer asks judge to impound work of deceased expert - Maryland police investigating case of video analyst found dead in office  (Dallas Morning News 5/02/00) The lead lawyer in the Branch Davidians' wrongful death lawsuit asked a federal judge Monday to impound all information relating to the 1993 siege of the sect's compound from a Washington-area office where an infrared expert was found dead last week.
  • Judge discloses that court expert believes flashes on Waco tape were from sun  (The Post-Dispatch 4/25/00) A court-appointed independent expert has determined that the flashes on an infrared videotape of the Waco siege were probably caused by the sun, U.S. District Judge Walter Smith Jr. said Monday. The judge cautioned that the finding was preliminary and not conclusive. And it did not prevent him from ruling that the Branch Davidians' wrongful death lawsuit against the government will go forward in June.
  • High court reviews Davidians' sentences - Finding on use of machine guns at issue  (Dallas Morning News 4/25/00) The Supreme Court on Monday questioned the way a judge sentenced Branch Davidians who are seeking to cut 25 years from their prison terms for the deadly 1993 raid near Waco. The justices will decide whether the judge or jury should have decided whether machine guns were involved in the deaths of four agents with the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms
  • Expert report backs FBI on Waco video - Judge says findings on siege are not final word; suit's size, scope decided  (Dallas Morning News 4/25/00) Federal court-hired experts believe that flashes on an infrared videotape made at the end of the Branch Davidian siege were not from gunfire, a federal judge told both sides in a wrongful death lawsuit Monday. U.S. District Judge Walter Smith cautioned that the oral report he received last week from Vector Data Systems of Great Britain is not the final word on the gunfire issue.
  • Investigator says test shows gunfire didn't cause flashes on siege video - Source in Waco inquiry calls sunlight, tank heat are possible origins  (Dallas Morning News 4/23/00) Preliminary results from a test designed to determine the source of flashes on an infrared video at the end of the Branch Davidian siege near Waco strongly suggest they were caused by sunlight and heat from FBI tanks reflecting off debris - and not government gunfire, an investigator said.
  • Simulation report shifts focus of the Davidians' suit against U.S.  (The Post-Dispatch 4/23/00) Five weeks ago, the Branch Davidians' main claim of government wrongdoing in the siege at Waco, Texas, in 1993 was that FBI agents had fired guns at the occupied complex and then denied the shooting. Today that charge is evaporating, and the Branch Davidians' lawyers are stressing other claims.
  • Davidians accuse U.S. of distorting law, facts - Court motion latest in war of filings in wrongful-death suit  (Dallas Morning News 4/22/00) The lead lawyer in the Branch Davidians' wrongful-death case charged Friday that the Justice Department is "misrepresenting the law [and] the facts" to avoid being assessed even partial responsibility for the 1993 Waco tragedy.
  • Davidians say U.S. should take some blame for deaths  (The Post-Dispatch 4/21/00) The Branch Davidians say the government should shoulder "some share of the responsibility" for the deaths at Waco in 1993 because the FBI didn't provide fire equipment and prematurely used tanks to knock down parts of the complex.
  • Davidians seem no closer to proving government wrongdoing (The Post-Dispatch 4/19/00) Seven years after Waco, the Branch Davidians seem no closer to proving deliberate government wrongdoing than they were on April 19, 1993, when the 51-day siege ended in a fiery climax.
  • U.S. defends its handling of Waco evidence - Sect says some items lost, altered   (Dallas Morning News 4/18/00) Government lawyers filed a point-by-point response Monday to claims that key evidence from the Branch Davidian siege was lost or intentionally altered, arguing that officials acted properly in collecting and turning over evidence from the 1993 raid.
  • Reno testimony used in bid to halt part of Waco suit - FBI officials' actions are defended during questioning by Branch Davidian lawyers  (Dallas Morning News 4/6/00) - Armed with new testimony from Attorney General Janet Reno defending the FBI's actions at the end of the Branch Davidian siege, Justice Department lawyers again asked a federal judge Wednesday to dismiss most of the sect's lawsuit against the government.
  • Branch Davidians attorney critical of Reno's deposition  (CNN 3/28/00) The lead attorney representing the Branch Davidians in a wrongful death lawsuit against the government said he believes Attorney General Janet Reno was "less than candid" in a portion of her two-hour deposition Tuesday.
  • FBI expert called before grand jury - Sect's lawyers question Reno under oath  (Dallas Morning News 3/29/00) The office of special counsel John C. Danforth has called an FBI tear gas expert involved in the Branch Davidian siege to testify before a federal grand jury in St. Louis, according to federal officials and lawyers involved in a civil case arising from the 1993 standoff.
  • Davidian test copies criticized - Lawyers from both sides want to look at original recordings (Dallas Morning News 3/25/00) Forget the dueling news conferences and public victory dances that followed last weekend's pivotal Branch Davidian infrared field test. Only five days after all the hoopla at Fort Hood, lawyers on both sides in the Davidian case quietly acknowledged Friday that their experts can't tell what the court-ordered test shows without better copies of the test data.
  • "Forgotten" Waco Case Goes Before Supreme Court   (NewsMax.com 3/22/00) The U.S. Supreme Court is set to hear oral arguments in the Waco case on April 24, NewsMax.com has learned. Nine survivors of the Branch Davidian compound fire who were convicted of carrying machine guns in a federal crime of violence will be petitioning their case before the high court.
  • Both sides claim victory in Waco camera testing - U.S., sect differ on whether gunfire shown   (Dallas Morning News 3/21/00) If Sunday was a day for history in the Branch Davidian case, then Monday was a day for spin. Lawyers for the government and the sect each declared victory after the landmark Sunday field test designed to help a federal court sort out whether flashes on an infrared video at the end of the Branch Davidian siege came from government gunfire or ground debris.
  • Opposing views of new test videotape in Waco debate - Government, Davidians disagree on what infrared images mean  (CNN 3/20/00) Attorneys for both the Branch Davidians and the federal government claim videotape of a court-ordered infrared camera test backs up their opposing positions in the wrongful death lawsuit the Davidians have filed against the government over the 1993 Waco siege.
  • 2 sides differ on Waco-siege test results - Each says evidence supports its claims on alleged gunfire   (Dallas Morning News 3/20/00) Attorneys for the government and the Branch Davidians held dueling news conferences Monday to offer different interpretations of results of a field test aimed at determining whether government agents fired at the sect's compound at the end of the 1993 siege.
  • Judge blocks release of Waco test results; lawyers are pleased with test   (The Post-Dispatch 3/20/00) A Justice Department lawyer said today that he was very pleased with the results of Sunday's scientific infrared test because it showed debris causes flashes like those seen on a video of the 1993 siege of the Branch Davidians' compex near Waco, Texas.
  • Lawyer says FBI plotted at Waco  (San Antonio Express-News 3/19/00) Shortly before a barrage of weapons fire choreographed to resemble the siege at Mount Carmel sounded on an Army firing range here Sunday, a Houston lawyer outlined his theory of the Branch Davidian case: that the FBI engaged in "a small conspiracy" to make sure no one lived through the ordeal.
  • Sect lawyers say evidence lost, altered - They urge judge to sanction U.S. for 'disturbing pattern'   (Dallas Morning News 3/16/00) Lawyers for the Branch Davidians told a federal judge Wednesday that key government photos and audio and video recordings from the last day of the 1993 Waco siege have been "lost, altered or tampered with."
  • Government mishandled evidence from Waco, lawyers say  (The Post-Dispatch 3/15/00) The government has "lost, altered or tampered with" key evidence to understanding what happened at Waco, lawyers for the Branch Davidian survivors said Wednesday. In a motion filed in federal court, the lawyers said the tainted evidence included FBI photos that show no agents shooting at the Branch Davidian complex.
  • Was it gunfire or glint at Waco?  (The Post-Dispatch 3/12/00) John C. Danforth is looking to science to provide a definitive answerto the central mystery of the 1993 Waco siege: Did government agents fire shots at the Branch Davidians?
  • Flash point - Test may demonstrate whether shots could have been fired at Branch Davidians in final hour of the Waco siege  (Dallas Morning News 3/12/00) Sometime next Sunday morning, if the weather is right, a British Navy helicopter and an FBI airplane will circle lazily above a stretch of broken Central Texas ground. Men below in combat garb will charge forward to shoot repeated volleys of gunfire as each aircraft records their actions with a heat-measuring infrared video camera.
  • Space blankets may aid Waco investigators  (CNN 3/11/00) The Justice Department plans to use "heat- reflective space blankets" to show that something other than gunfire could account for flashes seen on infrared videotape shot on the final day of the Branch Davidian seige.
  • T rooper describes oddities at Waco   (San Antonio Express-News 3/9/00) A Texas state trooper who stood guard as the flames were subsiding April 19, 1993, at Mount Carmel, told lawyers Wednesday that he saw a cargo van enter the property and leave carrying a body bag, that a rental truck spirited debris away from the scene and that he heard FBI agents discussing a gunfight.
  • Part of deposition from FBI hostage team leader aired - Fire threat ignored, sect alleges   (Dallas Morning News 3/9/00) Former FBI hostage rescue team commander Dick Rogers said in a recent deposition that he probably would've brought in armored firefighting equipment to the Branch Davidian siege if he'd known it existed, a court pleading stated Wednesday.
  • FBI misled Reno to get tear-gas OK, ex-agent alleged - Request to use force in Waco omitted expert's cautions, 1995 bureau file says   (Dallas Morning News 3/6/00) A veteran FBI behavioral expert told a bureau lawyer in a 1995 interview that he believed FBI officials "misled" Attorney General Janet Reno to gain her approval to gas the Branch Davidian compound on April 19, 1993, a confidential document states.
  • No agents are shown in 200 FBI photos of Waco siege  (The Post-Dispatch 3/5/00) No government agents are visible in the approximately 200 aerial photographs that the FBI shot of the April 19, 1993, siege of the Branch Davidian complex near Waco, Texas, according to a Post-Dispatch review of the photos.
  • Amount of tear gas fired at Waco siege questioned Investigators say more pyrotechnic rounds suspected  (Dallas Morning News 3/5/00) Crime-scene records, videos and photographs from the Branch Davidian siege call into question the FBI's account of where, when and how many pyrotechnic tear gas rounds were fired by its hostage rescue team at the end of the 1993 standoff, investigators say.
  • In deposition, ex-FBI agent disputes Waco allegations   (The Post-Dispatch 3/4/00) A former FBI agent who was in command during the final siege on the Branch Davidians said Friday that no agents fired guns or fire-causing rounds at the sect's complex near Waco, Texas, in 1993.
  • FBI didn't plan to fight Waco fire - Records in extensive sect filing (Dallas Morning News 3/2/00) Hours after a federal prosecutor cautioned the FBI about the need for firetrucks at the Branch Davidian compound, the bureau's Waco commanders sent a message to Washington saying they wouldn't even try to fight any blaze that might break out.
  • Memo reveals FBI's debate on Waco plan - Congress says it never saw key document   (Dallas Morning News 2/28/00) A key FBI decision-maker wrote in late March 1993 that he feared bureau officials in Waco were lobbying to gas the Branch Davidians because the officials were tired, frustrated and under pressure from the FBI's hostage rescue team commander, documents show.
  • FBI agent says tank razed gym at Waco by accident  (The Post-Dispatch 2/26/00) - The top FBI commander on the scene at Waco says that a government tank unintentionally knocked down the gymnasium of the complex as agents tried to inject tear gas into a room where about 20 Branch Davidians were hiding.
  • Computer search angers House panel - Prosecutors look into files of Waco whistle-blower  (Dallas Morning News 2/25/00) Efforts by federal prosecutors to access files from the government computer once used by a Waco whistle-blower prompted angry complaints to the Justice Department this week from a congressional committee investigating the Branch Davidian siege.
  • Sect gives details of ex-FBI official's deposition about assault - Ex-official thinks assault violated plan, sect says   (Dallas Morning News 2/24/00) A former top FBI official has acknowledged that sending tanks into the Branch Davidian compound was inconsistent with the Washington-approved plan for ending the 51-day siege, the sect's lead lawyer said Wednesday.
  • FBI eventually forced to drop claims about Waco test, expert says - British experts say data not considered classified in their country   (Dallas Morning News 2/18/00) The release of full plans for a potentially pivotal infrared field test in the Branch Davidian case came after FBI officials were forced to abandon their claim that even basic information about the camera used in Waco was classified, an infrared expert said Thursday.
  • Waco tests may show shots, U.S. lawyer says - Remarks 'very telling,' Davidians say  (Dallas Morning News 2/17/00) One of the government's lead lawyers defending the Branch Davidian case said for the first time Wednesday that an upcoming field test could capture flashes of gunfire on the type of infrared camera used by the FBI at the end of the 1993 siege.
  • Media protest secrecy of planned Waco tests - Davidian lawyers split over study's validity  (Dallas Morning News 2/16/00) - Media organizations on Tuesday challenged the secrecy of a test to determine whether government agents fired on Branch Davidians in the 1993 siege. And lawyers for the sect publicly acknowledged disagreements about whether secret plans for the test included enough safeguards to ensure its validity.
  • Government refused to test for gunfire at Waco, officials say - Scientist reported in '96 that FBI camera could discern whether guns caused flashes  (Dallas Morning News 2/14/00) A military scientist told Justice Department lawyers in 1996 that the FBI's infrared camera was capable of recording gunshots at Waco. But the government never pursued his proposal for tests to determine whether gunfire caused repeated flashes recorded at the end of the Branch Davidian siege, officials said.
  • Parties will meet here to draft blueprint of Waco re-creation  (The Post Dispatch 2/10/00) Lawyers, scientists and a judge will meet in St. Louis next week to draft the blueprint for an unusual experiment that could prove pivotal in determining whether government agents fired on the Branch Davidian complex during the siege at Waco in 1993.
  • Here is the evidence known so far in four key areas of special counsel Danforth's Waco investigation  (The Post-Dispatch 2/7/00) Following is key evidence in the Branch Davidian case that has emerged on four questions under investigation by special counsel John C. Danforth.
  • Branch Davidians started blaze, Waco survivor says in deposition   (The Post-Dispatch 2/7/00) Last October, an investigator for Waco special counsel John C. Danforth visited a federal prison in Louisiana to interview Graeme Craddock, one of nine survivors of the government's siege on the Branch Davidian complex near Waco, Texas, in 1993. What the two men talked about is secret. But Craddock gave another sworn statement later that month that provided new evidence that the Branch Davidians started a fire that killed dozens of people on the last day of the siege, April 19, 1993.
  • Tank action at '93 siege draws criticism - Branch Davidians contend it was planned part of attack (Dallas Morning News 2/6/00) Even in grainy black and white, the snippet of video is riveting: A 60-ton tank lumbers again and again over the back of the Branch Davidian compound, shredding a 60-square-foot swath of wall and roof like sodden paper.
  • FBI plan not followed, Davidian Lawyers Say - Judge Told Commanders' Use of Tanks Makes U.S. Culpable for Deaths in Siege  (Dallas Morning News 2/3/00) The FBI's two lead Waco commanders violated a Washington-approved plan by ordering tanks to begin demolishing the Branch Davidian compound in 1993, and thus should be liable for the horrific tragedy that ensued, the sect's lawyers argued Wednesday.
  • Spe cial Counsel Uses Polygraph on Waco Commando - Soldier Passes Test After Disputing Testimony Concerning Whereabouts  (Dallas Morning News 1/31/00) The Waco special counsel, responding to questions about a Delta Force commando's whereabouts at the end of the Branch Davidian siege, used a polygraph on him last week to confirm that he wasn't actively involved in the FBI's assault on the sect's compound, officials said.
  • Pair who sold guns to Koresh say the ATF has made life difficult (The Post-Dispatch 1/29/00) When Karen Kilpatrick has nightmares, she sees faces of children dying in the fire that destroyed the Branch Davidians' complex near Waco, Texas in 1993. Henry S. McMahon Jr. sometimes imagines their faces, too. And he often thinks about David Koresh, the Branch Davidians' leader who died along with about 80 of his followers.
  • FBI Cameras at Waco Same as Ones Used by British Military, Expert Says  (Dallas Morning News 1/29/00) A British military expert said Friday that infrared cameras identical to those used by the FBI in the Branch Davidian siege have been used regularly by British military forces to identify and record gunfire.
  • Spe cial counsel seeks tests on Branch Davidian recordings - Sect lawyers question whether FBI tapes given to court had been altered   (Dallas Morning News 1/28/00) The Waco special counsel's office asked a federal judge Thursday for permission to perform independent testing on tape recordings made from FBI surveillance devices on the crucial last day of the 1993 Branch Davidian siege.
  • ATF , Military Deny Shots in Final Waco Siege - Sworn Court Statements Filed After Months of Legal Disputes   (Dallas Morning News 1/26/00) - Government lawyers formally denied Tuesday that anyone in federal law enforcement or the U.S. military shot at the Branch Davidian compound at the end of the deadly 1993 siege.

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     Documents
  • Bill Johnston letter and statement
  • Text of letter from special counsel's office to Michael Kennedy
  • The Tragedy of Waco: New Evidence Examined
  • Special Counsel John Danforth's Report
  • Order of Judge Smith
  • House Committee on Government Reform Investigation
  • FBI Press Releases September 2, 1999
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     Related Sites
  • Waco Re-examined (Dallas Morning News) Provides a comprehensive archive of articles related to the Branch Davidian siege and the latest news.
  • Waco: What Really Happened? (St. Louis Post-Dispatch)
  • Waco News file (Time Magazine)
  • The Waco Investigation (Washington Post)
  • Waco Investigation Full Coverage (Yahoo!)
  • Waco NewsMax.com Hot Topics
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