NewsDeadly Negotiations: Waco 30 Years Later


Koresh's lawyer recounts Waco siege: 'You want a client that's alive'

Dick DeGuerin,Jack Zimmermann
Posted at 3:36 PM, Apr 19, 2023
and last updated 2023-04-20 00:53:12-04

WACO, Texas — Robert Durst.

Infamous spouse murderer Celeste Beard.

And for a brief time, Allen Stanford, who orchestrated a $7 billion dollar Ponzi scheme.

They share one thing in common: defense attorney Dick DeGuerin.


He’s widely regarded as one of the Lone Star state’s best, but perhaps his most famous client is the one he never actually defended in court.

“Bonnie called me, and the evening she called me I met with her up in Waco,” DeGuerin recalled recently in an interview with 25 News.

Bonnie was the mother of Branch Davidian leader David Koresh.

She retained DeGuerin to represent her son a few days after the initial ATF raid on the Davidian compound at Mt. Carmel.

“First thing — I filed a writ in federal court. We started litigating that for nearly a month. Finally, the FBI called me and said we have parallel interests. You want a client that’s alive and we want to stop this with no further deaths.”

That was more than a month into the standoff outside Waco, so only then was the Houstonian finally able to meet his client at the compound door.

“First, they took me up to about 100 yards away from front door and let me out there. They asked me if I wanted body armor. I said, ‘No, I’m not afraid of them. I want your guys not to shoot me,”’ DeGuerin said.

“My boots kept crunching on expended rounds. There were literally hundreds of expended 9 mm, .45 caliber, .22 rounds all over the front of the place. Those were all rounds fired by the ATF.”

The lawyer was required to remain on the front porch the first visit, but when he returned in the days after he was allowed inside to take inventory and gather evidence for what he assumed would be a murder case for Koresh.

“I thought it was just a matter of convincing David we had a chance in court. Then, he would come out and surrender and we’d go into court,” DeGuerin said.

“I met all the children that were still there. I don’t know any adult I did not meet. I wanted to meet everybody and find out who fired first.”

He believes the feds lied about elements of the botched raid — who fired first, where exactly shots came from, and more.

“In the ceiling, bullets that had come from above. Easy to see. The only place they could’ve come from were the helicopters. They [the ATF] steadfastly denied there was any gunfire that came from those helicopters, but I saw the bullet holes.”

Aside from Koresh’s followers, perhaps no one knew his thoughts more closely during the 51-day episode than his attorney.

“He was very sorry anyone died in the initial raid. But he was angry. A lot of them were angry about the way they were treated on February 28th,” the attorney said.

DeGuerin says he thought Koresh and most of his followers would eventually surrender — he negotiated on that premise for hours.

But then the FBI moved in on April 19, and nearly 80 men, women and children inside the compound died when fires broke out.

“The FBI lost patience. They thought there were being made fools of. They wanted to make it happen rather than let it happen,” DeGuerin said.

DeGuerin helped the few survivors find attorneys for their cases, and all of them were eventually acquitted on murder charges.

He never got the chance to defend Koresh in court, yet the memory of what transpired during those fateful weeks in Waco is never far from the 82-year-old’s mind.