With her eyes looking only at the floor and her ankles bound in shackles, Branch Davidian cult member Kathryn Schroeder appeared Tuesday at a detention hearing before U.S. Magistrate Dennis Green.
Green, after hearing arguments that Schroeder could not be legally detained in jail as a material witness, said that he would render a decision today about her fate.
Although Tuesday’s action gave the mothers of two Branch Davidian cult members still in the compound some hope that their children will be treated fairly, they were shocked that Schroeder was escorted into the court room in shackles.
“I think it’s really barbaric for Kathy Schroeder to be shackled,” said Balenda Ganem, mother of cult member David Thibodeau. “It was really painful to see her that way. It just looks like she’s been charged with some horrible crime.”
Ruth Mosher, mother of cult member Sherri Jewell, said the shackles sent the wrong message to other cult members in the compound.
“They’ve been taught that Christians are going to be persecuted,” Mosher said. “They’re playing right into David Koresh’s hands. We never expected to see them in chains. There was no reason for that. Where’s she going to go?”
Mosher also told reporters that Schroeder delivered her a message from Jewell.
“She told me that she’s all right and that she’s fine,” Mosher said.
Schroeder has been in jail since she left the compound on Friday.
She was the third adult to leave the compound after an ill-fated Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms raid on Feb. 28. Since that time, federal agents have been involved in a siege of the compound.
Four federal agents and at least two cult members were killed in the raid.
Including Schroeder, four adults and 21 children have been released. According to cult leader Vernon Howell, more than 100 followers remain inside the compound.
During Tuesday’s hearing, Schroeder’s attorney Scott Petterson argued that the state had not proven there is a threat of her not appearing before a court if subpoenaed.
“A detention affidavit must prove two things – it must prove that they are a material witness to a crime and that they, if subpoenaed, would not show up. You have to release Ms. Schroeder because it doesn’t meet the test,” Petterson said.
He said the material witness law should not be interpreted in a way to keep Schroeder.
“The way I read the case law, the material witness law applies to the homeless or indigent population or to people who have a past record of not showing up,” Petterson said after the hearing.
“There was nothing in the way of the affidavit that showed clear and convincing evidence of that.”
Prosecutor John Phinizey told Green that Schroeder has provided no information on relatives when asked and that “this witness does pose a non-appearance risk if released.”
Schroeder could be held up to 60 days if Green decides to keep her in jail as a material witness.
In a hearing March 9 for two other adults cult members released from the compound, Green also told attorneys that he would render an opinion the next day.
But Green allowed the women to be released the night before his opinion was due in an effort to avoid the media, attorney Gary Coker said.