A judge delayed the trial of a wrongful-death lawsuit brought by surviving Branch Davidians against the government, saying today that more time is needed for federal officials to produce the evidence he demanded.
U.S. District Judge Walter Smith, who has battled the Justice Department over the scope of his demand, acknowledged that the department intends to comply with his order to turn over documents and evidence related to the 1993 Waco siege and its fiery end, which left about 75 people dead inside the cult's compound.
"However, the physical transfer of control of all of this evidence will take longer than originally anticipated by the court," Smith wrote. "Therefore, the current trial setting of Oct. 18, 1999, will be impossible to maintain."
Smith has yet to set a new court date. He said the government's request for a fall 2000 date was "unrealistic" and he will not postpone the trial for a year.
On Sept. 2, Smith ordered the government to surrender all evidence by Oct. 1 or face a contempt of court citation.
"We believe the judge appropriately recognized that gathering all these materials would take longer than Oct. 1," said Justice Department spokesman Myron Marlin.