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Branch Davidian Trial Begins in Waco, Texas

Aired June 20, 2000 - 2:40 p.m. ET

THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.

NATALIE ALLEN, CNN ANCHOR: In Waco, Texas today: opening statements in the Branch Davidians' $675 million wrongful death lawsuit against the federal government.

CNN national correspondent Tony Clark joins us from the courthouse in Waco -- Tony.

TONY CLARK, CNN NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Natalie, today is an important day because it gives the attorneys for both sides a chance to lay out for the jurors what to expect to hear over the next four to five weeks that this trial is expected to take place.

As they arrived at the courthouse this morning, the attorneys found that they agreed only on one thing in this case: that is the events at Mt. Carmel some seven years ago were a tragedy. But the disagreement is stronger, the disagreement over who is responsible for that tragedy.

In court the plaintiffs' attorney, Mike Caddell, said this is a case of truth and responsibility. And while he admitted that there were weapons -- a great number of weapons -- at Mt. Carmel, he says that it is the children that he is representing. The children did not have weapons. The children did not shoot at the ATF, and they are the ones who should have been protected by the government, but were not.

In his openings statements, U.S. attorney Mike Bradford compared Mt. Carmel to what he called an "armed encampment." He listed many of the weapons that were there. He said sect leader David Koresh was thought of as a messiah who could do no wrong and who was able to have any of the women there at Mt. Carmel as his wife. And, if fact, had fathered many of the children.

Bradford placed the responsibility for the deaths at Mt. Carmel squarely on David Koresh and his followers. One of the people who was at Mt. Carmel throughout the 51-day siege and escaped the fires is Clive Davis (sic). Davis was here in court today, and said he is not optimistic about the trial's outcome.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

CLIVE DOYLE, BRANCH DAVIDIAN: I just don't see that it's going to be a fair trial the way it's shaping up. And, you know, that's what it was all about in the first place, was to bring out all the facts. And the fact that the judge is restricting what can be presented and who can be represented and everything else is, you know, like I said, it's a travesty.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

CLARK: That was Clive Doyle. Clive Doyle, as I say, escaped the fire on April 19th, but his daughter was one of those who was killed. There have been two members of the Branch Davidians who have taken the stand. Rita Riddle (ph) and one young woman, both of whom said there was no warning before the ATF attacked. They described being terrified there, and they say the kind of situation they had, the kind of lifestyle at Mt. Carmel, was nothing like the government has portrayed it.

Tony Clark, CNN Waco, Texas.

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