The story of Wayne Martin is one of Jekyll and Hyde.
A Harvard-educated lawyer, his colleagues in town say Martin was a quiet, low-key professional skilled in the courtroom and able to negotiate fair plea bargains for his clients.
On Feb. 28, federal agents say they met the other Wayne Martin — the fanatically religious gun-and-grenade toting aide to Branch Davidian leader Vernon Howell. During the botched assault by the U.S. Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms, Martin was near Howell’s side, serving a “leadership role” during the gun battle that killed four ATF agents, according to an affidavit filed by the ATF.
“He was mild-mannered, soft-spoken, polite, and never gave any indication that he was any kind of an extremist, but I never had an occasion to talk religion with him,” said former prosecutor Ralph Strother. “When it comes to religious zealotry, you never know what a person is capable of.
“It is in marked contrast to what I saw in his professional life,” he said.
One person who did talk religion with Martin was attorney and City Council member Lawrence Johnson, who had worked with Martin on several criminal trials.
He said Wednesday that he doesn’t necessarily see a conflict in the two images of his dead friend.
“I don’t think that Wayne Martin is in conflict with the Wayne Martin I knew because the Wayne Martin I knew was a devout believer and follower,” Johnson said.
“If he thought this was the role he had to play, that’s what he would do,” he said.
Johnson said he wasn’t surprised Monday to see the televised pictures of flames shooting out of the windows at Mount Carmel.
“I thought that they were trying to realize the prophecy of the scripture,” he said. “I thought Wayne was going to die.”
Seven weeks earlier, Martin thought enough of Johnson to call and tell him about the raid. Johnson was at home at about 10:30 a.m. — 45 minutes after ATF agents arrived at Mount Carmel — getting ready for church.
“He sounded like the Wayne I knew. He said, ‘Lawrence, I want you to do me a favor.’”
Tell the media
Johnson, who did not know of the gunfight before Martin called, said Martin asked him to call several media organizations and tell them about the raid.
“He told me they were involved in a firefight with, he said, 70, 80 agents and that they were taking casualties and that people were dying,” Johnson said.
Martin became well-known during the early stages of the 51-day siege at Mount Carmel when he became one of the cult’s spokesmen in its talks with authorities. He and Howell lieutenant Steve Schneider attended face-to-face meetings with FBI negotiators.
Johnson said he first met Martin, a native of New York, during the 1987 attempted murder trial of Howell and seven other cult members. They were acquitted of trying to kill former cult leader George Roden.
Johnson said he and Martin had discussed forming a law partnership, but scrapped the idea because of Martin’s devotion to his beliefs.
“He told me that his problem would be his No. 1 client, which would be the church. Everything had to take a back seat to the church,” Johnson said.
“To me, Wayne had very strong feelings about his religion to a point where he was in it until the end. He talked about religious sacrifice, the end of the world,” he said.
Martin’s world — and that of his family — began to end on Feb. 28.
According to the ATF affidavit, a Mount Carmel resident told agents that Martin, considered the cult’s third-in-command, was wearing “a string of hand grenades around his neck.”
During the battle with agents, several cult members, including Martin and his wife, Sheila, were seen firing rifles, the affidavit states.
Sheila Martin and three of the couple’s six children left Mount Carmel last month. The three other Martin children are believed to have died with their father in Mondays’ blaze.
Johnson said Martin had long thought that he was being targeted by the federal government. Martin told Johnson that he believed he had been denied admittance to the federal bar because of his ties with the Branch Davidians, Johnson said.
“He thought the government was keeping tabs on him, wiretapping, bugging him, things like that,” he said.
Although Martin had a law office, he worked mostly out of his home at Mount Carmel. He would use another lawyer’s office in downtown Waco to meet clients.
Johnson said he never visited Mount Carmel. “He didn’t want me to come out to the compound,” he said.
That became even more clear to Johnson when his mother, and avid fisherman, asked Martin if she could fish at Mount Carmel.
“He told her he’d look into it but then he told me it was best she didn’t come out there for fishing,” Johnson said. “He just said, basically, the only people they have out there are there for the Bible study.”
Like Strother and others who knew him professionally, Johnson saw Martin as a mild-manner, thoughtful lawyer. However, there was another side — the side witnessed by the world Feb. 28.
“He was that way all the time,” said Johnson, “but I knew he had his religious beliefs and whenever something conflicted with it, the religious beliefs would take over.”