NBC News and CNN, at least temporarily, do not have to surrender hundreds of hours of unaired videotape about the Branch Davidians raid and standoff to attorneys for cult members charged with killing federal agents.
Richard G. Ferguson, an attorney for cult member Brad Branch, had sought photographs and videotapes from the cult coverage by various media organizations, including the Tribune-Herald, KWTX-TV, ABC News and several radio stations.
All but NBC and CNN had worked out some kind of arrangement with Ferguson to turn over part of what he was seeking before Wednesday’s two-hour hearing in Waco’s U.S. District Court.
NBC attorney David Donaldson of Austin told U.S. District Judge Walter S. Smith Jr. that Ferguson’s subpoena is overly broad and fails to specify what he is looking for.
“We don’t want to become a lending library or an investigative arm for other people,” Donaldson said.
In asking that the subpoena be quashed, Donaldson said the network and its archives staff in New York would be placed under a “substantial hardship” if the judge ordered them to locate, research and copy the 10 hours of Davidian-related news stories aired during the 51-day standoff and the more than 250 hours of unaired video.
Donaldson said that the network does not provide access to materials not broadcast and claimed that the unaired segments were privileged materials.
Ferguson and the other 10 attorneys for cult members have been provided access by the government to most of the materials sought in the subpoena, Donaldson told the judge.
Ferguson, who admitted that his subpoena was too broad, said he had hoped that he could work with NBC and CNN attorneys the way he has with other media outlets, to narrow its scope and get what he wanted. But until he sees what the networks did not air, he will not know if there is anything included on the tapes that could prove useful to the Davidians, he said.
He is looking for statements from defendants in the case, statements of possible government witnesses and others interviewed who might have information that could help the defense, Ferguson said.
All parties agreed to try to work out an agreement, but neither side seemed prepared to compromise on the issues of viewing the unaired videotapes.
If those stances persist, the parties will wind up back in court in about 10 days to ask the judge to settle the dispute, Ferguson and Donaldson said.