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"Judge amends Davidian ruling"

by Tommy Witherspoon ("Waco Tribune-Herald," September 29, 2000)

U.S. District Judge Walter S. Smith Jr. has filed an amended ruling in the Branch Davidian wrongful-death trial to remove a reference the judge made to a sect member's mother.
Smith's Sept. 20 judgment that cleared the government of wrongdoing in the Branch Davidian disaster upheld the July 14 verdict rendered by an advisory jury after a four-week trial in Waco's federal court.
Besides agreeing with the jury and Special Counsel John Danforth that the government was not responsible for the deaths of Branch Davidian leader David Koresh and 75 of his followers, the judge last week also denied a plaintiffs' motion to recuse himself from the case and to declare a mistrial.
Plaintiffs' attorney Mike Caddell of Houston claimed in his recusal motion that Smith displayed bias against the plaintiffs throughout the civil trial, charging that the judge decided long ago which side should prevail.
Caddell alleged that Smith referred to Branch Davidian Livingstone Fagan as a "crazy, murdering son of a bitch" during a conversation with trial attorneys at the judge's bench.
Smith acknowledged in his ruling last week that he made the statement, but said that it was "off the record in response to another lawyer's humorous suggestion, and was not in any way intended to be taken seriously."
"The court regrets the slight to Mr. Fagan's mother, should he have one," Smith wrote.
In his amended order filed Thursday, Smith deleted the reference to Fagan's mother.
A spokesman in Smith's office declined comment on the amended ruling.
Fagan has admitted that he shot a government agent during the Feb. 28, 1993, raid at Mount Carmel. Last week, Smith reduced Fagan's 40-year prison term to 15 years in accordance with a summer edict from the U.S. Supreme Court, despite the fact that Fagan had not appealed his convictions on manslaughter and weapons charges.
Smith cut the sentences of five Branch Davidians from 40 to 15 years and a sixth from 20 years to 15 after the Supreme Court reversed the sentences Smith handed down after the 1994 criminal trial.
Houston attorney Rocket Rosen, who represented Fagan, said Fagan's mother died in the fire that destroyed Mount Carmel and ended the 51-day siege with the government. He declined comment on Smith's amended order.

Waco, FBI and the Branch Davidians: Updates

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