Davidian Evidence Ordered Released

Associated Press, August 10, 1999
By C. Bryson Hull

HOUSTON (AP) _ A federal judge has ordered all evidence from the deadly 1993 Branch Davidian standoff turned over to his court, which will allow lawyers for the Davidians who are suing the government to review it.

U.S. District Judge Walter Smith's order, released Monday, breaks a stalemate between the U.S. Justice Department and Texas Department of Public Safety. Public Safety officials had sought the ruling. They have maintained some 24,000 pounds of evidence that actually was under the control of the Justice Department, making public access difficult.

Lawyers for nearly 200 Davidians and their relatives will get to look at the evidence recovered from the sect's Mount Carmel compound, which burned on April 19, 1993. The blaze ended a 51-day siege and killed Davidian leader David Koresh and nearly 80 followers.

"First and foremost, the parties to civil litigation pending in this court have the right to seek access,'' Smith wrote. "Second, the events that took place between Feb. 28 and April 19, 1993, and thereafter, have resulted in sometimes intense interest from the national media and the members of the public,'' the judge wrote. "There may come a time when persons other than the current civil litigants would be allowed access to the materials.''

The Davidians and their relatives have filed a multimillion-dollar wrongful death lawsuit against the government. Their attorney, Michael Caddell, on Tuesday called Smith's order "good news.''

Justice Department spokeswoman Carol Florman said the agency is still reviewing the order.

DPS Commissioner James B. Francis Jr. said the transfer of the evidence to the district clerk should occur within a few weeks.

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