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Branch Davidian Trial: Jury Goes into Deliberation

Aired July 14, 2000 - 2:01 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: Late news from a closely watched trial in Texas. A jury in Waco is deliberating now in the $675 million Branch Davidian lawsuit against the federal government.

CNN national correspondent Tony Clark has been covering this wrongful death trial since the beginning. He joins us from Waco -- Tony.

TONY CLARK, CNN NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: They got the case about 40 minutes ago to begin deliberating. In closing arguments this morning, former Attorney General Ramsey Clark, who represents some of the Davidians, called the 1993 rage, standoff, and fire at the Branch Davidian compound outside of Waco, the greatest domestic law enforcement tragedy in U.S. history. A tragedy he said, that didn't have to happen.

The lead attorney for the Davidians, Mike Caddell, tried to focus the jury's attention on the children who were killed at the compound, rather than sect leader David Koresh and the so-called mighty men who were, he admits, firing on members of the ATF during the February 28, 1993, raid, and who may have set the fire that destroyed the compound.

In his closing arguments, U.S. attorney Mike Bradford said that the ATF agents and the FBI agents who came to Mt. Carmel were in his words, not monsters, they were people out there trying to do their jobs. He squarely blamed David Koresh and the Branch Davidians for what happened out at Waco.

In regard to the April 19, 1993, fire that consumed the compound, that was a focus not only of much of the testimony but also of the closing arguments.

Bradford said if one thing is clear, it was the Branch Davidians who started the fire and not the government. And it is the responsibility of the Branch Davidians for those deaths.

Mike Caddell said, in fact, there is shared responsibility. The Davidians own up to some of the responsibility. But, he said the government also carries some of the responsibility for the deaths.

The jury is to consider four questions in making their decision: the first, whether agents of the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms used excessive force in the initial raid; then whether the agents of the Bureau -- the FBI were negligent in the way they handled events on April 19; if those questions, any of those questions are yes, the jury then goes on to a third question, whether the Davidians themselves were negligent in the way they acted; and a fourth question assigning percentages of negligence in this case.

The jury, as I say, got the case about 40 minutes ago. And they are expected to deliberate throughout the day. No indication whether those deliberations will continue on through the weekend if a decision is not reached today.

Tony Clark, CNN, Waco, Texas.

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