"New trial date, judge sought in Davidian suit"
by Scott Parks ("The Dallas Morning News", 4 September 1999)
The attorney for several Branch Davidians on Friday asked a federal appeals court to remove the presiding judge in a lawsuit alleging that the federal government is responsible for the 1993 siege that killed more than 80 sect members.
Ramsey Clark, a former U.S. attorney general, petitioned the U.S. Court of Civil Appeals to direct District Judge Walter Smith of Waco to reassign the case to another district judge.
Mr. Clark also asked the appeals court to order Judge Smith to vacate his order setting the trial for Oct. 18. Mr. Clark was not available for comment Friday, but other plaintiffs' attorneys in the case have accused Judge Smith of bias in favor of the federal government.
"We cannot get a fair trial," said James Brannon of San Antonio, who represents three children who died in the April 19, 1993, fire at the Branch Davidian compound near Waco. "It just won't work."
Mr. Clark and his co-counsels have argued that they have not been able to review the mountain of evidence in government custody and that it would be unfair to start the trial on Oct. 18.
Judge Smith has ordered the federal government to deliver all evidence in the Branch Davidian case - thousands of pages of files and tons of physical evidence - to his clerk in Waco by Oct. 1.
Plaintiffs' lawyers contend that even if the government complies with that order, they will not be able to review the evidence by Oct. 18.
The Davidian standoff began Feb. 28, 1993, when agents from the U.S. Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms raided the compound looking for illegal weapons.
Four ATF agents and five Davidians were killed during a shootout that day, and the siege began.
Government lawyers and FBI agents who were present during the 51-day siege steadfastly maintain that Branch Davidians inside the compound started the fires that ended the standoff.
Eight surviving Branch Davidians were convicted on manslaughter and weapons charges in a trial in San Antonio in 1994, and one pleaded guilty to charges. Two were acquitted.
Judge Smith also presided over that criminal trial.
Waco, FBI and the Branch Davidians: Updates
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