by Benedict D. LaRosa

As the trial of 11 surviving Branch Davidians for murder and conspiracy to murder federal officers enters its third week, several matters related to the trial have come to light.

According to information given to Larry Dodge, Director of the Fully Informed Jury Association (FIJA), by one of the defense attorneys, presiding Judge Waller Smith denied requests by attorneys for the Branch Davidians to subpoena 33 defense witnesses because he considered their testimony to be irrelevant. Since a list of witnesses is not available and a gag order imposed by the judge prevents the attorneys from discussing the case, it has been impossible to verify this information or to know how it affects the defense. A spokesman for the U.S. Attorney would only say that Judge Smith had denied some defense subpoenas, but would not say how many.

Seventy-Seven year old Catherine Matteson — one of the survivors of the Mt. Carmel siege — told an Austin television audience late last year that the first shots she heard were fired from three helicopters strafing David Koresh's room. Matteson left the Branch Davidian complex the fourth day of the siege at the request of Koresh. She was arrested and charged with murder and conspiracy to murder federal officers, but all charges against her were subsequently dropped.

On November 3, 1993, Gladys Ottman, another Branch Davidian who left Mt. Carmel during the siege, wrote to a friend in San Antonio that a British member of their community, Derick Lovelock, had witnessed about 30 fellow Davidians shot down as they tried to escape the fire through rear exits.

Another Branch Davidians, Katherine Jones, claimed that Lovelock told her the firing came from men shooting out of helicopters. Since the FBI restricted the media to an area two miles in front of the complex, news cameras did not catch what was happening anywhere else. Although originally held as a material witness, federal authorities released Lovelock to return to England last October. It is not known whether he will appear as a witness.

Despite the extensive precautions taken by Judge Walter Smith to keep the Branch Davidian jury anonymous, FIJA activists found out their names and addresses late January 10, the first day of jury selection. By the next afternoon, all of them had been mailed a Jury Power Information Kit. No mention was made of the Branch Davidian trial in any of the material, nor were the jurors advised how to vote. Judge Smith learned of the contact and warned the jurors at the close of proceedings on January 14 not to read anything which came in the mail pertaining to their duty as jurors. He ordered them to turn all such material over to him. Five jurors did so when the trial reconvened on January 18. Judge Smith then asked the jurors if they had been influenced by the FIJA material. None admitted having been influenced by the mailing.

Judge Smith has apparently been caught in a lie. When FIJA activists tried to obtain the master jury wheel on January 3 and again on January 7, the Clerk of Court denied them access to the list because Judge Smith's order for anonymity covered the entire wheel. FIJA then filed a Motion for Production of the Master Jury Wheel. Judge Smith denied FIJA Motion for Leave to File claiming FIJA had no standing in his court. The Motion for Production of the Master Jury Wheel was, therefore, never considered. Yet, Judge Smith told the jurors on January 18 that "By federal law, anyone can get the names of the entire master jury wheel."

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