For U.S.,more than money at stake in Branch Davidians' civil lawsuit

June 18, 2000|By COX NEWS SERVICE

WACO, Texas -- A lot is at stake in the Branch Davidians' wrongful-death lawsuit against the government, which opens tomorrow in Waco.

It's not just about money, although the plaintiffs -- surviving Davidians and the relatives of those who died at Mount Carmel--are asking for $675 million.

A verdict in favor of the Davidians would mean that a federal judge, and not just critics, had found the government's actions at Mount Carmel to be negligent.

"This particular civil trial could have a much greater impact on government conduct in the future than a criminal case would," said Mike Caddell, lead attorney for the plaintiffs. "A jury verdict against the government would be a dramatic reminder of whom they're supposed to work for."

Michael Bradford, government co-counsel for the civil trial, did not return phone calls requesting an interview.

A government win could lend credence to its version of events seven years ago. However, it won't end the speculation about what happened at Mount Carmel, according to Mark Swett of Portland, Maine, whose extensive collection of Davidlan siege documents has made him a resource for researchers and TV programs.

"The only thing that can stop the endless speculation will be a complete investigation utilizing all the evidence. We missed that opportunity with the 1995 congressional hearings," he said.

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