Jurors in the Branch Davidian trial on Thursday got a look of the massive arsenal that had been stored at the Mount Carmel compound as government attorneys paraded scores of weapons - including two .50-caliber anti-tank guns - before them.
One by one, six Texas Rangers who had headed teams that combed the compound after it burned to the ground April 19 took the stand to identify the multitude of assault rifles, semi-automatic pistols, hand grenades, tracer rounds, crates of ammunition and other weapons recovered in their probe of the deadly Feb. 28 gunbattle between cult members and federal agents.Agents of the U.S. Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms had gone to the compound near Waco to search for illegal weapons and to arrest cult leader David Koresh. The gunfight that ensued left four agents dead and prompted a 51-day standoff that ended April 19 when fire leveled the place.
In all, government prosecutors introduced 250 or more guns or parts of them, hand grenades and other weapons recovered from the rubble.
Lawyers defending the 11 Branch Davidians on charges of murder and conspiracy to murder the four federal agents who died in the Feb. 28 raid contend cult members purchased the weapons as an investment.
Attorneys said the religious sect expected the government to soon outlaw future sales of semiautomatic AR-15s - the civilian version of the military-issue, fully automatic M-16s - and that their stockpile of the rifles would triple or quadruple in value.
Outside the courtroom defense attorney Dan Cogdell was asked how often religious groups sell firearms to finance their ministries.
"I don't know of too many religions that do a lot of things like the Branch Davidians," said Cogdell, who represents Clive Doyle. "They were a strange bunch of people. We're not claiming they were Second Baptist church folks. They are a strange duck, but that doesn't mean they conspired to kill ATF agents."
Still, he and other defense attorneys admitted that the display of evidence was likely having an impact on jurors.
"Their eyes tended to glaze over and roll back," Cogdell said. "I think the key is not how many (weapons were found) but who had access and who was using them," he said. "We expect the evidence to show that that room was off-limits to all but Koresh's inner circle."