Constitutional Limits on Law Enforcement Are Our Only Protection from the 'Arrogance of Power'
Washington, DC (July 20, 1995) -- "Rather than teaching new lessons, the events at Waco serve to reaffirm the lessons the framers of the Constitution knew very well. They knew then what we must not forget -- that there will always be people in law enforcement who are ambitious, who enjoy power and who will be willing to distort the truth to achieve their objectives or to hide from blame," criminal defense lawyer Tim Evans, of Houston, Texas, will tell the House subcommittees examining the 1993 events at the Branch Davidian compound near Waco when he testifies on behalf of the National Association of Criminal Defense Lawyers (NACDL) on Friday, July 21.
Evans defended (pro bono) British national Norman Allison, who had resided at the Davidians' compound for only a few months, against the government's allegations that he conspired to murder federal agents at Waco. Allison was the only Davidian defendant acquitted on all counts. Evans is also a board member of NACDL.
"The government actions at Waco are a case study in these human frailties," Evans will tell the congressional panel. "The Bill of Rights is our best protection against these frailties. The actions of law enforcement before, during and after the tragedy at Waco cannot logically be assumed to be an isolated aberration. The disease of fraud, deceit and arrogance displayed by so many throughout this affair could not have afflicted them overnight. It grows in the petri dish of permissiveness and is fed in the frenzy of the "War on Crime." It is not limited to any one branch of law enforcement; it infects the ranks of honest and dedicated officers throughout the land."
"Congress, and all legislatures, should realize that there is a huge and powerful lobby constantly asking for more power, more money and fewer restrictions. It is the lobby of law enforcement. It ranges from the constant pressure of the Department of Justice to the demands of myriad local police organizations."
"The events of Waco call not merely for a re-examination of law enforcement but for a fundamental realization that they are not always right and they do not always tell the truth. Congress should therefore re-examine its propensity to grant carte blanche requests from the Department of Justice for more power, fewer restrictions, and broader criminal laws," Evans will urge.
From his first-hand knowledge of the events at Waco, Evans will testify about:
- law enforcement agents' application for the warrant to search the Branch Davidian compound;
- justification for ATF's "dynamic entry;
- "phantom" methamphetamine lab;
- element of surprise;
- false affidavit that his client fired at agents;
- claim that the fire was unexpected;
- raid mentality;
- fired the first shot;
- intentional absence of written reports by agents at the scene; and
- militarization of law enforcement in America.
"We must return to a healthy and meaningful system of checks and balances in the enforcement of our criminal laws," Evans will emphasize. "It should never be 'easy' to convict another citizen. When it becomes easy to convict 'them,' it will become easy to convict 'us.'"
"It is checks and balances that keep us free; not studies, commissions, training or counseling. We must stop equating individual protections with 'criminals' rights.' We must avoid the reckless rhetoric that equates the Bill of Rights with 'legal technicalities.' Specifically, we must return to the protections of the Fourth Amendment. A healthy exclusionary rule protects the innocent and the free, not the 'criminal.' Can one imagine what the agents, who would twist the truth to obtain a search warrant, would do if they no longer even needed a warrant to arrest and search and seize?"
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To obtain a copy of Tim Evans' complete testimony or to schedule an interview, please contact NACDL.
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NACDL Communications Department
The National Association of Criminal Defense Lawyers is the preeminent organization advancing the mission of the criminal defense bar to ensure justice and due process for persons accused of crime or wrongdoing. A professional bar association founded in 1958, NACDL's many thousands of direct members in 28 countries – and 90 state, provincial and local affiliate organizations totaling up to 40,000 attorneys – include private criminal defense lawyers, public defenders, military defense counsel, law professors and judges committed to preserving fairness and promoting a rational and humane criminal justice system.