Branch Davidian cult members fired at federal agents Feb. 28 as a reaction to the government’s decision to “make war,” a cult member told a federal judge Friday.
“What happened on Feb. 28 was not our doing, but the government’s doing,” Branch Davidian Kevin A. Whitecliff told U.S. District Judge Walter S. Smith Jr. “They decided to make war against us, and our response was in reaction to their actions.”
Smith summoned Whitecliff and Branch Davidian Livingstone Fagan to court because they are represented by the same attorney, Steve (Rocket) Rosen of Houston.
The judge wanted to make sure that the men, charged with nine other cult members with murdering four federal agents in the Feb. 28 raid at Mount Carmel, understand the potential for a conflict of interest by having the same attorney.
Both told the judge that they approve of the arrangement and are confident in Rosen’s abilities. By doing so, both men waived their right to possible appeals based on ineffective assistance of counsel, Smith told them.
The judge gave as an example of a potential conflict a scenario where two people rob a bank and one, in the middle of trial, changes his defense and testifies that the other one made him do it. If both men are represented by the same attorney, they could cause a conflict, he said.
Rosen said after the brief hearing that the Branch Davidians are putting up a unified defense and he does not foresee a possible conflict of interest in the case.
Asked if Whitecliff’s statement to the judge showed signs of frustration, Rosen said cult members are eager to tell their side of the story.
“I think the only frustration that has set in is that they want to have their say,” Rosen said. “They want the American public, the public throughout this world, to hear what they have to say.
“No one has listened to them. They haven’t had their opportunity to speak out, and probably when Mr. Whitecliff stood up before the court, this was his first opportunity to really speak out and say what is on his mind and give us a brief idea of what he is thinking. I won’t stop him from doing that.”
Smith moved the trial, set to begin Jan. 10, from Waco to San Antonio because of the excessive publicity.