Attorneys for three of the 11 Branch Davidians charged with conspiring to kill federal agents asked this week that the trial be moved to Austin because they fear publicity would rule out a fair trial in Waco.
Killeen attorney Robert O. Harris, who represents Renos Avraam, filed a motion Friday saying that the continuous publicity in the case was “on the most part highly adverse and prejudicial to the right of this defendant to receive a fair trial in the Waco division.” The motion said that while there was publicity about this case in the Austin area, it was not as extensive as in Waco.
Harris said he thinks Austin is far enough from Waco for his client to get a fair trial. U.S. District Judge Walter S. Smith Jr. will consider the motion, Harris said.
Killeen attorney Gene Silverblatt, representing Livingstone Fagan, filed a change of venue motion Thursday, and Waco attorney Richard Ferguson, representing Brad Eugene Branch, filed a similar motion Tuesday.
Attorneys representing Ruth Ottman Riddle and Paul Fatta also have filed motions for a change in venue, according to court records.
Ferguson’s motion said it would be “difficult if not impossible to find an impartial jury in the Waco area,” and for that reason, his client’s rights would be jeopardized here.
Ferguson said Friday that Austin is the “biggest forum that’s still convenient.”
Going beyond Austin, to San Antonio for example, would be a difficult commute for many people involved in the case, he said.
The motions by Ferguson and Silberblatt also said that Austin would be the most convenient forum for attorneys, witnesses and defendants and offers a roomy courtroom and facilities to accommodate the large number of people who will be involved in the case. It also offers access to major highways, an airport and other amenities.
Smith has scheduled a Sept. 30 hearing to consider motions in the case and set a tentative trial date for Nov. 8.
An order filed Sept. 17 indicated that Smith had taken “judicial knowledge” of publicity in the area about the Feb. 28 raid on the cult’s Mount Carmel compound, the 51-day standoff with federal agents and the April 19 fire, in which at least 80 cult members died.
Four Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms agents died Feb. 28 while trying to serve arrest and search warrants on cult leader Vernon Howell, also known as David Koresh. At least five cult members also died the day of the raid.
Other cult members charged in the case include Kevin Whitecliff, Clive Doyle, Jaime Castillo, Woodrow Kendrick, Norman Allison and Graeme Craddock.
Cult member Kathryn Schroeder pleaded guilty to forcibly resisting federal officers. In exchange for her cooperation with the government, prosecutors have agreed to drop murder, conspiracy to murder and weapons charges against her.