An attorney for eight men charged with attempted murder in a Nov. 3 shootout at a religious encampment will attempt to have the charges against the men dismissed today during a pretrial hearing by claiming that the victim is mentally unstable.

Judge George Allen of Waco’s 54th District Court will consider about eight motions filed by Waco attorney Gary Coker during a hearing at 10:30 a.m.

The men were arrested after a shootout near Elk with George Roden, who was wounded in the hand during the incident. Roden claims to be president and trustee of the Branch Davidian Seventh-day Adventists.

The suspects are members of a splinter group which fled Waco in 1985 and established operations in Palestine. They claim Roden forced them at gunpoint from their land and say they carried guns and were dressed in military fatigues during the incident to protect themselves from Roden while they attempted to photograph an exhumed body in a casket in the church on the ranch.

A representative of the group says they wanted to take a picture of the body so authorities would have evidence to take legal action against Roden.

Coker accompanied his pretrial motions with copies of expletive-filled legal petitions that Roden has filed with the Texas Supreme Court and Waco’s 10th Court of Appeals in which he tells the justices he hopes God infects them with herpes, AIDS and “the seven last plagues.”

He claims that Roden, a former self-professed presidential candidate, is not mentally competent to testify against the suspects.

Coker also claims that the charges against the men are “vague and general” and fail to provide sufficient notice of the charges.

Coker said Thursday he also hopes to force prosecutors today to state which of the charges in the two-paragraph indictment they intend to seek against the men.

They are charged with attempted murder and conspiracy to commit murder, both second-degree felonies punishable by from two to 20 years in prison.

The suspects, who all are free on bond, include Vernon Wayne Howell, 28, president of the Branch Davidian Seventh-day Adventists Association; Paul Gordon Fatta, 29; Floyd Leon Houtman, 55; Peter James Hipsman, 22; David Michael Jones, 33; Gregory Allen Summers, 22; James Loye Riddle, 27; and Stanley Carl Sylvia, 49.

The men claim that Roden is living on the property in violation of a restraining order issued by 19th District Court Judge Bill Logue in 1960.

Perry Jones, a spokesman for the splinter group, has charged that Roden was trying to resurrect the body at the church.

Roden has denied the allegation and said the body was in the church because he was moving the community’s cemetery when his bulldozer broke.

Read the Tribune-Herald's 7-part investigative series on the inner workings of the Branch Davidians. Hours after Part 2 appeared in print, the ATF raided the group's compound.

Read the Tribune-Herald’s account of the ATF raid on the Branch Davidian compound on Feb. 28, 1993. Four ATF agents and six in the compound were killed in the gunfight.

Read the daily news accounts of the 51-day siege at the Branch Davidian compound near Elk, which began Feb. 28 and lasted until April.

April 19 and beyond: FBI agents began inserting canisters of tear gas into the Branch Davidian compound in the early morning hours. By noon, it was on fire.

Federal officials left the compound site in late May 1993. As identifications of bodies continued, questions about the survivors, the compound and the cult itself began to emerge.

As the world began to take a critical look back at the events and legal proceedings continue, the ATF's bombshell report forces a shakeup at the top after the raid gone "tragically wrong."

In 1994, the surviving Davidians went on trial in San Antonio. Over six weeks, more than 140 witnesses testified, with the verdict coming just two days prior to the anniversary of the ATF raid.

The Rodenville shootout and the 1988 trial, the end of the world in 1959 and more stories from deep in the Trib archives.