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United States v. Branch

United States Court of Appeals for the Fifth Circuit
91 F.3d 699 (1996)


The United States government (plaintiff) prosecuted Brad Eugene Branch and 11 others (defendants) for a variety of federal crimes, including aiding and abetting the murder of federal agents, in violation of 18 U.S.C. §§ 2, 1111, and 1114. The trial evidence established that the defendants were members of the Branch Davidian sect, a religious group that prepared for an apocalyptic battle at the end of time by amassing an arsenal of weapons and turning the sect's residential compound into a virtual fortress. The Davidians' leader, David Koresh, defied a federal search order. Koresh and many other Davidians armed themselves in anticipation of a government raid on the compound. About 75 uniformed federal agents soon arrived. As the agents approached, they shouted out their intention to enforce the search warrant. The Davidians unleashed a storm of gunfire on the agents, and the ensuing battle left four agents and three Davidians dead, as well as many agents and Davidians wounded. Agents surrounded the compound, and after a 51-day standoff, they tear-gassed the compound. The Davidians set fire to the compound and 84 residents died in the blaze. Following a trial that lasted almost two months, the judge instructed the jury that a defendant's conviction on the murder charge required proof that the defendant did not act in self-defense or in defense of another. The judge refused the defense's request for a similar instruction on the lesser included offense of voluntary manslaughter. The jury convicted Branch and five other defendants of manslaughter, and they appealed to the Fifth Circuit Court of Appeals.

Rule of Law


Holding and Reasoning (Higginbotham, J.)

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