What the jury decided

The Dallas Morning News, July 15, 2000

The jury came back after 2 1/2 hours of deliberations on Friday with an advisory verdict clearing the government of any wrongdoing during the 1993 Branch Davidian siege in Waco. Here are the questions the judge asked the jury to consider, and their unanimous answers:

1. Did the federal Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms use excessive force when its agents tried to serve search and arrest warrants on Feb. 28, 1993, at the sect's compound? In particular, did agents fire at the compound either indiscriminately or without provocation in the gunbattle that broke out?

Jury's answer: No.

2. Did the FBI act negligently in any of the following ways during its tear-gassing operation on April 19, 1993: By driving tanks into the building in ways that violated the Washington-approved gassing plan? By starting or contributing to the spread of the fire? By deciding not to have any plan to fight any fire that might break out, despite a directive from Attorney General Janet Reno to have "sufficient emergency vehicles"?

Jury's answer: No.

Note: If the jurors had answered yes to ATF or FBI negligence, they would have then considered whether the government proved "by a preponderance of the evidence" that Branch Davidians acted negligently in resisting the ATF agents who were trying to warrants; in continuing their resistance until the siege ended on April 19; and whether they acted negligently in setting fire to the compound. They then would have assigned percentages of blame to both sides.

The Jury

The five-man advisory jury remained anonymous throughout the four-week trial. During testimony, jurors heard from 49 live witnesses and heard more than 23 recorded depositions.

The jury served in an advisory role because federal civil cases against the government are required by law to be heard only by federal judges. Judge Walter S. Smith decided to use his judicial discretion to bring a jury to advise him because of the high profile and sensitivity of the case. He will make final decisions in the case, probably in early August.

The jury was picked from a pool of 60 people from 13 counties. They were:

  • A black man who works as a Waco elementary physical-education teacher.

  • A black woman from Copperas Cove who is a payroll accountant at Fort Hood.

  • A white woman from Limestone County who is a victims' assistance program employee.

  • A white woman who is a homemaker in Hewitt.

  • A white Bell County man who works as an aircraft electrician.

    Note: Two jurors were dismissed during the trial for personal reasons. They were a white Waco man who is a property manager, and a white Bell County woman who works as a management assistant.

    To see more documents/articles regarding this group/organization/subject click here.