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AUSTIN AMERICAN-STATESMAN Tuesday March 1 Pg B3 "CULT" TRIAL JURORS RIP GOVERNMENT'S ACTION IN RAID Associated Press San Antonio - Jurors in the Branch Davidian trial said they quickly rejected murder and murder conspiracy charges and were critical of the government's actions, according to reports Monday. "Four agents were killed in what they were told to do. They did it in the line of duty....We can never replace their lives and our sympathies are with their families," a woman juror told KGNB radio in New Braunfels. "But on the other hand, over 80 women and children and a few men died in that horrible fire (that ended the 51-day Davidian standoff)... and we can't justify that either. So two wrongs never make a right," she said. The juror, a New Braunfels resident, requested anonymity. U.S. District Judge Walter Smith had ordered jurors' identities be kept secret during the trial, but he told them they could speak with reporters afterward. A male juror, also requesting anonymity, told WOAI radio in San Antonio: "The government might think that was a defeat, but not really. It was a verdict that perhaps they were too vigilant in their serving of the search warrant." On Saturday, the jury in the San Antonio trial acquitted all 11 Branch Davidian defendants of murder and murder conspiracy charges in connection with the Feb 28, 1993, killing of four federal agents who attempted to serve search and arrest warrents at the Davidian compound. Five Davidians were convicted of voluntary manslaughter, and two were convicted of weapons charges. Four were acquitted of all charges. Jurors criticized the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms for the way it stormed David Koresh's compound near Waco with dozens of agents who poured out of two cattle trailers. The male juror said the ATF would have been better off "if they had just gone out there with three or four men in business suits and just knocked on the door. But they didn't." The woman juror also criticized the raid plan. "I don't know what the average person would do - probably panic and fall on the floor. But these people did not," the woman juror said. "No one really knows to this day who started the shooting, who shot the first shot." The jurors said once the approximately 20 hours deliberations began, the eight- woman, four-man panel quickly rejected murder and murder conspiracy charges. Convictions on those charges could have meant life prison sentences. The manslaughter and weapons charges carry maximum 10-year sentences. "We did feel that we had to put the count of manslaughter on a number of them because they admitted to shooting.... We could not let that go. We didn't have a difficult time with that either," the woman told KGNB. Prosecutors hurt their case by calling former Branch Davidians to testify, the woman said. Former sect member Kathryn Schroeder, who agreed to testify against her former religious companions, had been considered the star prosecution witness. Defense attorneys said afterward they thought they were helped by Schroeder's statement that she did not participate in a conspiracy. The male juror also said the testimony of Schroeder and former Davidian Victorine Hollingsworth weighed heavily in their verdicts. Jurors were tremendously swayed by evidence of the FBI's activity at the compound April 19 [1993], when a fire destroyed the place after government armored vehicles battered the buildings and inserted tear gas, the woman juror said. Koresh and 78 followers died in the inferno, some from gunshots. "I couldn't imagine anybody being in a home with that many women and children and having big tank coming through the front door. And they penetrated a room's length or more.... This is America. This isn't a police state. I don't care what they did. I can't see that. And I wasn't predetermined. I didn't realize the tanks had done that until I was shown by the govenment," she said. -END-


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