Two Branch Davidians withdraw from lawsuit

Waco Tribune-Herald, February 28, 2000
By Tommy Witherspoon And Mark England

Houston attorney Mike Caddell asked U.S. District Judge Walter S. Smith Jr. of Waco Monday to dismiss two prominent Branch Davidians from the group's wrongful-death lawsuit against the government.

Caddell, lead plaintiffs' attorney, filed a motion stating that Kathryn Schroeder and Rita Riddle do not wish to pursue the lawsuit.

Also asking out were three of Schroeder's children: Scott and Christyn Mabb and Bryan Michael Schroeder, her son by Michael Schroeder, who died in the raid on Mount Carmel. He was shot by ATF agents while trying to get back to his family inside the residence.

"He (Smith) has ruled that unless you have suffered significant physical injury, you have no claim for simply being there," Caddell said. "I think the other thing is that these are people who do not want to undergo the burden of some of the pretrial discovery that they would have to go through: depositions and making appearances at the trial."

Schroeder, who left Mount Carmel after the siege began to be with her children, testified at the 1994 criminal trial against fellow Davidians. "Judge Smith already has dismissed the claims relating to the death of Michael Schroeder," Caddell said. "And the bottom line is we advised them that there would be little point in appealing that decision. We looked into it. I wouldn't say that we agreed with the court, but I wouldn't say that the judge didn't have a legitimate basis for the decision he made." Riddle left about a month before the Mount Carmel fire. She lost a brother, Jimmy, and her daughter, Misty Ferguson, was severely burned. "In her case, it was a decision to just not have to go through the hassle of a lawsuit," Caddell said.

Ferguson remains in the lawsuit, along with more than 100 other plaintiffs. "There's no way we're getting out," said Kirk Lyons, the Black Mountain, N.C., attorney who represents Ferguson.

Ferguson, then 16 years old, suffered serious burns on the last day of the siege. Lyons said Ferguson now lives in North Carolina and recently had a baby.

"She was burned so badly that all her fingers had to be amputated," Lyons said. "It's taken a long time for her to recover, although you never really recover from a fire."

No one restrained Ferguson, but Lyons said she was scared to leave Mount Carmel on April 19, 1993.

"She had seen what had happened to people like Catherine Matteson, who was thrown in jail," Lyons said. "She didn't trust the people she was dealing with. Her mother had come out. She was supposed to call and say she was all right, and they wouldn't let her. What was she supposed to think?"

Caddell said there may be more dismissal filings ahead for the plaintiffs. "You have to realize that for six years in this case we didn't have any discovery," Caddell said. ". . . It has only been the last few months that we have had the opportunity to look at the evidence and get a handle on what issues are exactly going to trial. So I would expect that there will be more reorganization of the plaintiffs and the parties in this litigation."

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