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"Burying the Branch Davidians"

by Judith Vinson ("LewRockwell.com" July 21, 2000)

Sometimes, to understand an event, it's necessary to look at the smallest of things. Jamie was such a thing.
He weighed less than thirty pounds. He was blind. His eyes forever closed. He didn't talk, or sit, or walk, and couldn't feed himself. He spent much of his day in an infant carrier or a crib beneath the windows of his room so he might feel the sunlight. He could only feel and hear, and so his mother read him nursery rhymes, and spent countless hours winding a collection of music boxes whose tinkling sounds always brought a smile to his face. He was cuddled, and rocked like any infant, except Jamie was no infant. Jamie was eleven years old. A victim of spinal meningitis at eighteen months, he didn't grow much after that. He was a little boy who "all the king's horses, and all the kings men" could not put together again. He was not the youngest of the Branch Davidian children who lived at Mt. Carmel, but certainly one of the least.
He was in his crib under those windows on the morning of February 28, 1993, when agents of the BATF began a raid on his home. Bullets shattered the window above his crib and he was cut with flying glass. For a very long time he screamed and thrashed in his crib as his mother, along with the other children, huddled on the floor of the bedroom away from a barrage of gunfire and flying glass. His father, Wayne Martin, was downstairs pleading through 911 with the Mc Clennon County Sheriffs Department to "call them off, there's women and children in here." It was a futile plea. For a long time the McClennnon County Sheriffs Department hadn't a clue as to what he was talking about.
Because of Jamie, his mother, Sheila Martin, came out of Mt. Carmel along with him and two of his younger siblings early on in the siege, leaving her husband, Wayne, and her other four children behind. Jamie required special care, and the other two, Kimmie and Daniel, were too young to leave their mother.
His wheel chair had to be left behind, so Sheila, who weighed not more than a hundred pounds, and now afoot, never the less, managed to carry him around the town of Waco, Texas. She had just been released from jail and was homeless and alone with Jamie after Child Protective Services took away her two youngest children. Although she was never accused of any crime, it would be a long time before she got the other children back, the CPS requirement being: "You must provide a proper home we approve of."
For a time she and Jamie would live at the Salvation Army where she would pray and clutch the pictures of her husband and children as she watched the final conflagration and the deaths of her husband and four older children as Mt. Carmel burned to the ground.
After she was released as a material witness, Sheila and Jamie were evicted from the Salvation Army inasmuch as the Salvation Army had a contract with the Mc Clennon County Sheriffs Department for a halfway house for released felons. Salvation, it seemed, was in short supply. There was no room for a mere widow with a special-needs child.
The only one in Waco willing to take them in was a young man named Mark Domangue. He owned the Brittany Hotel in downtown Waco, an old run-down transient hotel he hoped to remodel and refurbish. Later, he invited two elderly, and also homeless Branch Davidian women to join them. The women who were there wouldn't accept charity and they offered to do maid service in return for their lodging. At length, they were evicted after armed IRS agents seized the property because Mark was unable to pay the withholding taxes the IRS estimated he owed from the Branch Davidian women's volunteer work. Before long, the building was razed and the property is now a city park across the street from the Waco Convention Center.
There were other offers of help while some of the survivors resided at the Brittany. The Maury Povich Show came to town professing great sympathy for their need for publicity. The Branch Davidians didn't watch television and were fairly unaware of the tabloid sensibilities that dominated not only most news outlets but talk shows in general. They were advised to forgo the show, but being the most guileless of people, were want to see guile in others. By November of 1993, seven months after the fire, there was a great deal of excitement at the Brittany in anticipation of the show. After seven months of bad press and, out and out, slander, finally, God had answered their prayers and was sending someone from the media who wanted to help them by telling their story.
The show was held in the Waco Convention Center across from the hotel. No one was sure of the capacity of the place, but the few Branch Davidian survivors (most were still in jail) did complain that they were given only a hundred tickets for any friends or supporters. Finally they were given an extra twenty-seven tickets. In the mean time, 600 tickets had been taken to Baylor University, the local Baptist College, and given away. The reason for the disparity became apparent during the show as one woman in the audience stood up and said, "we don't even know why these people are here. Waco is a Baptist town and we also have a very NICE Baptist University." The impression left was that the Branch Davidians were either less than "nice," or less than Baptist for a town such as Waco. A perusal of the credits running at the end of the show left little doubt as to the identity of the co-promoters of the show.
Onstage, the Branch Davidians were outnumbered by other critics as well. A young woman named Vicki Fallabel said she left the sect eighteen years before as a teen and claimed she had been sexually abused there. She wouldn't name names, but left the impression that it had been David Koresh who was to blame. No one got a chance to point out that she left nine years before he arrived on the scene.
Marsha and Mark Spoon who lived for twelve years across the street from Mt. Carmel complained that the Branch Davidians disturbed them with a lot of talk of death and implied they were not the best of neighbors. Finally a surviving Branch Davidian managed to ask them, that if that was the case, why did they accept so many invitations to ice cream suppers over the years, and the gift of a new roof the Branch Davidians put on their house? They didn't answer. The Spoons' observations were aired on that November 8th and 9th, 1993 show, but the Branch Davidians' question was cut from the final tape.
The audience was laced with handpicked critics as well. A very attractive redhead that Maury Povich kept returning to over and over again in the audience claimed the autopsies of the children showed "bullet holes in them" and that they had all been murdered by their parents. She fairly screamed the accusations. She turned out to be an airline flight attendant and Povich Show groupie who had flown in with them from New York.
Onstage, Stan Silva, a survivor, was reduced to tears by a woman in the audience who demanded he explain why he was in California when his wife, Loraine and daughters, Rachel and Haley, died. "If you were so concerned about them, why weren't you with them, instead of off in California?" She demanded. (The rumor being spread was that Loraine was an extra wife of David Koresh) It's not known whether his answer satisfied her. "My wife, Loraine, she needed things. I went to California with my youngest child, Joshua, because I couldn't find work here and I was promised a job. We were takers there, we weren't contributors. They were taking care of us. I just had to find work. Loraine had cancer and she needed things." At the time, the results of the autopsies had not been released. When they were, they revealed no children murdered. The final tally released by Dr. Rodney Crow of the Tarrant County Medical Examiners office in Fort Worth, Texas, revealed: 39 died from inhaling gas, 9 suffocated, 21 died from gunshot wounds (none children), 3 burned to death, and 3 died from blunt force trauma (from the roof caving in on the bunker). There were 2 fetal deaths recorded, as well.
By this time, facts were popping up all over, but no one wished to be confused by them. The Fort Worth Star-Telegram seized on the "blunt-force trauma" finding as indicative that the children were killed by their own parents. "Cultist Children Executed" their headline screamed.
There are those who believe the most recent ruling by five jurors in a Waco courtroom that absolved the government of any wrong-doing in the deaths of the Branch Davidians was finally successful in burying them. Perhaps they are right. We were commanded to bury one another. For some, the courtroom may be as good a way as any.
The effort to do it is nothing recent, however. The effort has been going on since the beginning, and not in a few quarters. As much as some would like to blame only the government, it's not possible. They had a great deal of help.
For all the questions not allowed to be asked in that trial, Jamie might have answered the most important one of all. Would people laying an ambush for the BATF leave the children they loved exposed in front of open windows? He can't answer, of course. Two years after he came from Mt. Carmel to the streets of Waco, Jamie died.
Even in death, there would be no room for him. The mass grave in Potters' field that held his father and four brothers and sisters along with the other Branch Davidians was filled to capacity, the authorities said. He would have to be buried apart from the rest and far across the cemetery. Jamie is there now, alone. It's a nice place, this time, though. A better place. One where the sun is always shining, and the music boxes will never wind down.

"Danforth will release preliminary report on Waco Friday"

by Terry Ganey & William H. Freivogel ("St. Louis Post-Dispatch," July 21, 2000)

After more than 10 months quietly investigating the government's assault on the Branch Davidian complex at Waco, Texas, special counsel John C. Danforth will release his preliminary findings Friday in St. Louis.
The report will contain about 95 percent of the conclusions Danforth has reached in the special probe. The report is expected to be about 150 pages and be based on interviews, scientific studies and lab reports on 7-year-old evidence.
The timing of Danforth's report - which had not been expected until the fall - surprised many lawyers, congressional staffers and others familiar with the Waco case. And it fueled speculation that Danforth may be reconsidering his decision last month to remove his name from consideration for the vice presidency.
That Danforth is now winding up the Waco inquiry just as Texas Gov. George W. Bush is about to make his choice for the No. 2 spot on the Republican ticket prompted friends and political consultants to wonder whether Danforth was clearing the books to take part in a national campaign.
"It is interesting timing," said Rich Galen, a Republican political consultant. "It's sure possible. I'm not sure it's probable. He is in the top four or five guys everybody is talking about."
Whether or not Danforth is rethinking his political options, he did little to quell speculation Thursday afternoon. A spokeswoman at Danforth's Office of Special Counsel was asked if Danforth would "unequivocally" state that he would not be the vice presidential candidate. Jan Diltz, the spokeswoman, checked with Danforth and said the answer was that there was "no answer."
The response was typical. Since Attorney General Janet Reno appointed Danforth last September to re-investigate Waco, he and the attorneys and investigators he selected have kept silent about what's going on.
"He's a perfect clam," said one government official familiar with the Waco case.
Danforth's findings are expected to be among the last official words about a tragedy that has nagged the nation's conscience since April 19, 1993, when about 80 members of the obscure religious sect died in the fiery end to a 51-day government siege. In addition to Danforth's investigation, congressional committees are expected to issue reports this fall.
A federal judge is also preparing to make a verdict on Waco. A five-member advisory jury ruled last week in Waco that the government was not responsible for the Davidians' deaths. The jury heard about four weeks of evidence in a civil trial on claims filed by lawyers for Branch Davidian survivors and relatives of those who died. U.S. District Judge Walter Smith Jr., who presided over the case, will use the advice to render a final ruling.
When Danforth took the job, he said his investigation would attempt to answer four "dark questions":

Did FBI agents fire guns at the Davidians?
Did the FBI start the fire?
Did the military's involvement in the standoff violate federal law?
Was there a cover-up?

The advisory jury in the civil trial answered some of the questions. It found that David Koresh, the sect's leader, was responsible for the deaths, including the fires that destroyed the complex. Smith is considering the gunfire issue on his own. A special consultant hired at Danforth's suggestion to study infrared surveillance tapes has concluded that FBI agents did not fire.
The siege began on Feb. 28, 1993, when about 75 agents of the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms attempted to serve a search and arrest warrant on Koresh, the sect's leader. A gunfight broke out in which four ATF agents and six Davidians were killed.
On April 19, converted tanks driven by FBI agents pumped tear gas into the complex in an attempt to roust the Davidians. A fire began and about 80 Davidians died, some from effects of the fire and some from gunshots.
Despite a criminal trial, two government reports and congressional hearings, questions continue to be raised about what happened. Critics contend the government reports - conducted by the Justice Department and the Treasury Departments - are whitewashes.
Two documentary films accused FBI agents of firing guns at the Davidians on the last day of the siege. Some suspicions seemed to be confirmed last summer when it was disclosed that FBI agents had fired two or three pyrotechnic tear gas canisters at the complex in violation of Reno's orders. It was after that disclosure that Reno asked Danforth to look into the case.
During the civil trial, evidence and testimony showed that while the pyrotechnic canisters were fired, they were directed away from the complex at a time hours before the fires began.
Danforth will issue his "interim" report before Judge Smith makes a final ruling in the civil case.
Danforth's accelerated release of the Waco report increased speculation among friends and political observers that he may be rethinking the vice presidency.
Danforth's wife, Sally, is said to have dropped her previous opposition, for example, and one longtime associate said he had the impression that Danforth "may have done something to put himself back in the flow" to be considered by Bush.
When Danforth said he was not interested in the No. 2 spot on the ticket, he said he had professional responsibilities and that his family was happy in St. Louis.
Rep. Jim Talent, R-Chesterfield, a candidate for the GOP gubernatorial nomination in Missouri, said he had no knowledge that Danforth was taking a second look at the possibility of joining Bush. But Talent predicted that Republicans in general would cheer if he did.
"I've always believed that if it was put to Jack Danforth as a matter of duty, that he would reconsider, because that's the way he's lived his life," Talent said.

"Danforth will release report on siege today"

by Lee Hancock ("Dallas Morning News," July 21, 2000)

Waco special counsel John C. Danforth will release a report Friday detailing "95 percent" of his investigative findings about government actions in the Branch Davidian siege.
News conference
TXCN will air John C. Danforth's press conference on his investigation into the government's handling of the Branch Davidian siege at 12:30 p.m. Friday.
The release, scheduled to coincide with a 12:30 p.m. news conference in St. Louis, comes 10 months after the former Missouri senator was asked by Attorney General Janet Reno to answer "the dark questions" about the government's role in the 1993 tragedy.
"He feels that it is time to talk with the American people," said Jan Diltz, a spokeswoman for Mr. Danforth's office in St. Louis. "I think he is very ready to come out and say, 'Here's what we have so far and here's what we need to do.'"
It will be the first public report from Mr. Danforth's office since last September, when he outlined core questions to be examined by his 68-member team of former federal prosecutors, lawyers and postal inspectors. Those questions, further detailed in a January budget report to the Justice Department, include:
Did the government kill any of the 80 Branch Davidians who died in a fire that ended the 51-day siege?
Was the military deployed illegally in the FBI's tank and tear-gas assault launched six hours before the compound burned on April 19, 1993?
Did government forces fire guns at the compound during the last hours of the standoff, either killing sect members or cutting off their escape routes when the compound began burning?
Did the government contribute to the start or spread of the fire?
Was there a cover-up after the tragedy?
Did any government employee or agent make false or misleading statements, allow others to do so or withhold information about what happened on the final day of the siege?
In keeping with an inquiry unusual for its secrecy, Mr. Danforth's office declined to answer even the most general questions about the conclusions that will be outlined in the 150-plus-page interim report.
"I think he's going to be pretty detailed in what he says," Ms. Diltz said. "I think you might be surprised at his candor."
But other officials familiar with ongoing Waco inquiries and even government critics said they expect few blockbuster revelations.
They note that allegations of military involvement in the April 19 operation were quietly shelved even by lawyers for the sect after three U.S. Army Delta Force soldiers were deposed last winter and one of the soldiers was subjected to a lie-detector test by the special counsel's office.
Although the issue of government gunfire remains unresolved in the Branch Davidians' wrongful-death lawsuit, Mr. Danforth's scientific experts have already publicly dismissed claims of government gunfire at the end of the siege.
The British-based experts, Vector Data Research, also supervised a field test on the issue for Judge Smith last March at Fort Hood and sent him a report in May rejecting claims that repeated flashes on an April 19 FBI infrared videotape were caused by government gunfire.
Expecting few surprises
"Although it is our understanding that the investigation still has work to do in the way of future interviews and document reviews, we're not expecting any big surprises," said a federal official close to the ongoing Waco inquiries.
"Their own expert has already discounted the major issue of government gunfire. It leaves their primary focus on issues such as whether government officials mishandled certain actions on the final day of the standoff or later failed to fully disclose what they had done," the official said. "What we're expecting, in all candor, is a big snore."
The report will be released exactly a week after a five-member advisory jury in Waco found the government was not responsible for the final fire. The jury also ruled that agents from the federal Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms did not use excessive force in a gun battle that touched off the siege.
Four ATF agents died in the gunfight, which began as they tried to search the compound for illegal weapons and arrest sect leader David Koresh on weapons-violations charges. Five sect members also died.
U.S. District Judge Walter S. Smith will make the final ruling in the wrongful-death lawsuit, but attorneys for the sect have predicted the judge will not alter the jury's verdict.
Mr. Danforth was appointed after FBI officials acknowledged that they had used pyrotechnic tear-gas grenades during their April 19 tank and tear-gas assault.
That admission followed six years of repeated government denials during exhaustive congressional inquiries, a post-siege Justice Department review and a 1994 criminal trial that the FBI had used anything capable of sparking a fire on April 19.
What Danforth has done
Mr. Danforth was then brought in to determine why the use of pyrotechnic tear gas was denied for so long and whether there was any basis for other questions about the government's actions in Waco.
He retained staff members in Waco and Washington and told the Justice Department that he expected to spend almost $11 million by the end of 2000 to evaluate more than 1.5 million government documents on the siege and question more than 1,000 people.
He retained experts on everything from forensic pathology to audio recording and infrared imaging to help evaluate the tons of evidence amassed by the government.
He sent a staff lawyer to monitor the government's defense in the wrongful-death trial. He also sought custody of dozens of pieces of evidence, most recently asking Judge Smith for permission to evaluate gas masks, grenade fragments and pieces of lanterns found inside the compound after it burned.
Mr. Danforth's office also solicited information not only from lawyers representing sect members in the recent wrongful-death lawsuit, but also from government critics who spent years trying to focus public attention on their theories about the Waco tragedy.
One of the best-known critics, Colorado filmmaker Michael McNulty, said he met several times with Mr. Danforth's top aides and turned over reams of records and information collected for his two documentaries on the Waco siege.
But on Thursday, Mr. McNulty said he expects little from Mr. Danforth's report.
"It's obvious that Judge Smith and Mr. Danforth have consulted closely, and their actions, including the release of this report, certainly appear timed to coincide," Mr. McNulty said. "I am not of the opinion that the Davidians had a fair trial under Judge Smith, and I am not of the opinion that Mr. Danforth will present a fair investigation.
'Federal family's laundry'
"This is the federal family, doing the federal family's laundry," said Mr. McNulty, whose films have accused the government of sending special forces commandos to machine gun the Branch Davidians and blow up the concrete room where many of them took shelter on April 19. "I expect it's going to be a whitewash."
Officials familiar with the ongoing Waco inquiries say that a major remaining focus of Mr. Danforth's office will be the government's long denial that pyrotechnic tear gas was used on April 19.
That issue has already prompted Mr. Danforth to summon witnesses to testify before a federal grand jury in St. Louis, including the FBI technician assigned to obtaining tear-gas supplies for the April 19 operation.
In the last few weeks, Mr. Danforth's investigators have continued questioning officials involved in the incident and the subsequent Justice Department review, and they are still receiving final shipments of government records, officials say.
In addition to Mr. Danforth's inquiry, other investigations of the siege are still continuing. The House Government Reform Committee has spent more than eight months questioning FBI agents involved in the siege and reviewing the vast trove of government documents on the siege.
Officials with the House committee and with a parallel Senate investigation say they still have not decided whether to convene hearings on Waco this fall. But Washington observers say there is little appetite for new public proceedings on Waco, and the inquiries may be concluded with the release of written investigative reports.
Also unresolved is whether Judge Smith will hold full court hearings on the gunfire issue and when he will release his final judgment in the wrongful-death case.
Judge Smith decided last month to sever the gunfire claim from trial and consider it without a jury. At the close of the four-week trial, he announced that he would reconvene hearings on the gunfire issue in early August, when the chief analyst for Vector Data Systems could travel to the United States.
But lead plaintiff's lawyer Michael Caddell sent a letter to Judge Smith on Thursday confirming his earlier statements that he would not participate in the proceeding.
Challenging validity
Mr. Caddell's letter indicated that he and his clients and their experts were still challenging the scientific validity of Vector's analysis of the April 19 infrared video.
Mr. Caddell said earlier this week that he would not participate in the hearings because he believed that Judge Smith had already made up his mind on the issue and would rule in favor of the government. He could not be reached for comment Thursday.
The judge has not issued a formal response. But his staff indicated Thursday that he would decide early next week whether to hold or cancel the August hearing.
The government's trial team argued in a recent motion that the judge should decide the issue in their favor without further evidence or testimony.

"Special counsel to release findings on FBI's actions at Mount Carmel"

by Mark England ("Waco Tribune-Herald," July 21, 2000)

Special Counsel John Danforth will issue his preliminary findings today on whether the FBI was guilty of "bad acts" at Mount Carmel in 1993.
A press conference will be held at 12:30 p.m. in St. Louis to disclose a report that Danforth's office said contains conclusions related to "95-percent" of the investigation.
Danforth was picked by U.S. Attorney General Janet Reno almost a year ago to look at the FBI's attempts to force the Branch Davidians to surrender after a 51-day siege. The investigation examined whether the government committed what Danforth called "bad acts." There were four questions addressed: Did FBI agents fire at the Davidians? Did the FBI start the fire that killed David Koresh and 75 followers? Did the military's involvement at Mount Carmel violate federal law? And was there a cover-up?
The unveiling of the report comes amid an almost total news blackout instituted by Danforth in response to the leaks that plagued Independent Counsel Kenneth Starr's investigation of President Bill Clinton.
That secrecy was carried to extraordinary lengths. For example, Danforth had an observer at the Waco civil trial, where last week an advisory jury ruled that the government was not negligent in the deaths of 81 Davidians at Mount Carmel. Willie James Epps Jr., on leave from the St. Louis law firm of Bryan Cave, where Danforth also works, nodded pleasantly to reporters during the trial. However, he flatly refused to confirm the spelling of his last name to a St. Louis Post-Dispatch reporter.
Reporters had to track Danforth's investigation by reading his occasional filings in Waco's federal court, where he asked for access to various evidence as well as seeking U.S. District Judge Walter S. Smith Jr.'s endorsement of staging a re-creation of the final day at Mount Carmel. It was held in March at Fort Hood.
Danforth's expert, Vector Data Research, subsequently determined that the flashes on the FBI's April 19, 1993 infrared video taken at Mount Carmel came from debris and not gunshots.
That conclusion has been criticized by Houston attorney Mike Caddell, the lead plaintiffs' attorney in the Davidian civil trial. Caddell, in court filings, argued that Vector employees admit that the debris field set up at Fort Hood produced no multiple flashes — which are seen in places on the April 19 infrared video.
The timing of Danforth's announcement fueled some speculation that the former Missouri senator is trying to wrap up the investigation in order to take a run at securing the second spot on Texas Gov. George W. Bush's presidential ticket. That rumor surfaced despite Danforth's public withdrawal of his candidacy a couple of weeks ago.
A Bush spokesman said that he was not aware of a change in Danforth's status as a vice-presidential candidate.
Danforth is among several prominent Republicans, including retired Gen. Colin Powell, Florida Sen. Connie Mack and Arizona Sen. John McCain, who have said they don't want the job.
A longtime friend of Danforth's told the Tribune-Herald Thursday that they talked recently about the vice-presidential spot on the Republican ticket. While Danforth confirmed turning down a chance to vie for it, he also reported that Bush asked him to reconsider, according to Danforth's friend.
Bush told reporters in Austin Thursday that Powell and Mack have unequivocally ruled out the job. However, Bush did not offer the same assessment for Danforth or McCain.
Carefully watching the conclusions drawn by Danforth's report will be Sen. Arlen Specter, the Pennsylvania Republican who heads a special subcommittee looking into Mount Carmel. He put the brakes on that investigation last year out of deference to Danforth, who complained publicly that parallel investigations were hampering his efforts.
"What he (Specter) said was that he would back off pursuing his own investigation until after the Sen. Danforth report was in," said Charles Robbins, a spokesman for Specter. "As I understand it, it's something that he told Sen. Danforth that he would do."
The Associated Press reported last week that Specter said the outcome of the Danforth report would help determine whether he pursues a congressional hearing on Mount Carmel.
"Presumably it will be a very useful investigation," Robbins said.

Waco, FBI and the Branch Davidians: Updates

CESNUR reproduces or quotes documents from the media and different sources on a number of religious issues. Unless otherwise indicated, the opinions expressed are those of the document's author(s), not of CESNUR or its directors

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