‘Waco: The Aftermath’ Ending, Explained: Did The Court Rule In Favor Of Davidians?


John Dowdle and John Erick Dowdle have been able to create a riveting courtroom drama that keeps you engrossed and on the edge of your seats. It’s hard to find a false note in Waco: The Aftermath, and just like its prequel, it has a lasting impact and makes us privy to the reality that the government didn’t want its citizens to know. In the series, we saw Dan Cogdell trying to fight for the Davidians in court, whereas Gary Noesner wanted to stop another Waco massacre from happening. Noesner was very sure that the extremists living in Elohim City could retaliate, and that is why he wanted to get ahead of them and inform the authorities about it. But nobody was listening to him, and that is why he had decided to send Carol Howe inside Elohim City to get him some evidence to prove to his bosses that his speculations were not wrong. In the series, we also witnessed how David Koresh came to Waco, met Lois Roden, and rose among the ranks to become the messiah. So let’s find out what happened in the series finale and if the Davidians won the case and whether Noesner was able to prevent the catastrophe from happening.

Spoiler Alert

What Did Noesner Testify In Court?

Noesner finally came to the witness stand, and Dan Cogdell started asking him questions in the hope of making him accept the fact that the ATF was wrong in conducting a raid and that the Davidians would have come out by themselves if Gary had been allowed to handle the negotiations. Gary said one important thing: he said that trust is the foundation of any negotiation. Gary told the court that it took him a lot of time to make the Davidians trust him, and that is how he had taken out 35 people and made them surrender. Dan Cogdell’s main aim was to establish that there was a conflict between Gary and the ATF because they did exactly what Gary told them not to. Dan Cogdell reminded the court that using sleep deprivation techniques and trying to scare off the Davidians by rolling tanks over their cars were not exactly things that you do to build trust. Dan Cogdell wanted to prove that the negotiator and the ATF were not acting in conjunction, but getting Gary to own up to that was not an easy task. Dan Cogdell asked Gary if he was told when the raid was going to happen, and Gary told the court that it was the decision of the leadership, and everybody abided by that. But Gary had put in a request for a computer to be sent inside the Mt. Carmel building, as Steve Schneider had asked him for it. David Koresh wanted to write down his interpretation of the seven seals, and that is why Steve thought that if there was a computer, they could finish it off in good time and come out and surrender. Dan Cogdell was able to show the jury that Gary had no clue when the raid was going to happen because the leadership knew that he would be against it. Gary, till this point in Waco: The Aftermath Episode 5, was done circling around the issue, and he told the court what Cogdell wanted him to say. Gary Noesner accepted in court that the Davidians were not planning to die all along, and if he had been given a bit more time, he would have taken each and every one of them out safely. Gary’s testimony was a huge blow to the case put forth by the prosecution, and Cogdell believed that his clients would be set free after that.

Did Carol Howe Find Anything In Elohim City?

Carol was still in Elohim City, and in Waco: The Aftermath Episode 5, she finally found some evidence that made her realize that the white supremacists were trying to wage war and were in the process of making bombs to spread terror and make the government pay for what had happened on April 19, 1993, in Waco. Carol had risked her life and entered Andy, the German’s trailer and found a piece of paper on which the names of the chemicals, generally used to make a bomb, were written. Pappy Miller, Andy the German, and everybody else came to know about it as a resident had seen her leaving the trailer. Carol was asked what she was doing there, and she sensed that if she didn’t run to save her life, then these extremists would kill her. Carol Howe managed to reach Noesner and tell him about what she had found in Elohim City. Gary immediately went and contacted Mitch Decker because he knew that otherwise, Alan Sanborn, his boss, wouldn’t agree to let him investigate the matter. Mitch had a lot of conflicts with Gary, and he was not happy about what he said in court. But Mitch was a rational man, and he realized that they needed to keep aside their differences as the problem at hand was much bigger and needed immediate attention. Mitch spoke to Sanborn, who decided to finally meet Carol and hear what she had to say. The problem was that Sanborn had already made up his mind, and he didn’t think that there was a need to look into the Elohim City matter. He concluded that Carol had no strong evidence to prove that a plan to bomb Oklahoma City was underway, and he asked Gary to stop investigating the issue.

Gary had no option but to let Carol go. Gary felt helpless, and also quite guilty, as Carol had trusted him and believed that he would have her back no matter what. While leaving, Carol asked Noesner never to contact her again, and Gary knew that once again, he had failed in his endeavors and the system had gotten the better of him.

‘Waco: The Aftermath’ Ending Explained: Did The Court Rule In Davidians’ Favor?

After Noesner testified in Waco: The Aftermath Episode 5, the scales had tipped in the defendant’s favor, and the jury finally reached a verdict. Clive Doyle was acquitted of all the charges, whereas Ruth Riddle, Paul Fatta, and Livingstone Fagan were charged with using an illegal firearm in the commission of a crime. Cogdell immediately questioned his lordship, saying that if the defendants were found not guilty of aiding and abetting the murder of federal agents, then how could they be charged for using the firearms for a crime that hadn’t been committed? The judge realized that it was a legal paradox, and that is why he acquitted everybody of all the charges. Something that we all know about the system is that it never loses. It would be apt to say that the system is a sore loser, and it often resorts to all sorts of foul play to turn the outcomes in its favor. The FBI, the ATF, and the United States government could not digest this defeat and probably put pressure on the judge to reverse his decision. The government made a mockery of the legal justice system and showed people that democracy was just an illusion, and when the time came, every government became dictatorial in its approach. At the end of Waco: The Aftermath, the defendants were just about to get released from prison when they were dragged once again into court and told that the judge had decided to make some changes in his judgment as he believed that legal flaws had made his earlier judgment void. The judge turned the paradox around and said that if the three defendants were guilty of using illegal firearms, then they were also guilty of the crime. He sentenced Ruth to a sentence of 5 years; Paul Fatta got 15 years; and worst of all, Livingstone Fagan got life imprisonment for 40 years. The government wanted to draw blood, and in addition to the sentence, Ruth, Livingston, and Paul were asked to pay a huge restitution fee upon their release.

Dan Cogdell was angry and beyond frustrated, but he also knew that he couldn’t have done anything to save his clients, as the U.S. government never intended to let them walk free. Bill Johnston, the prosecutor’s lawyer, approached Dan after the verdict was given, and he told him that he needed his support to file a case against the ATF for perjury. Bill might have been on the prosecution’s side, but he realized the blunder that had been committed. He knew that his witnesses, generally people of the law enforcement agencies, had lied in that witness box, and everybody knew about it. Bill had won the case, but it didn’t feel like a victory. He knew that they were on the wrong side of history, and future generations would always see them as people who were scared to take accountability and accept their faults.

Final Words

The jury members had accepted after the trial that even five years was way too harsh a penalty, and they felt that the judge disregarded their conclusions. But no matter what anybody said, the system had its way, and they had no qualms or regrets about it. On April 19, 1995, Timothy McVeigh drove his truck to Alfred P. Murrah Building in Oklahoma City and left it there. The truck was filled with highly hazardous and inflammable chemicals, and it felt like he had made arrangements to blow up the entire city. McVeigh was filled with hatred, and he wanted an eye for an eye, so he detonated his truck, and the explosion killed more than 150 people. There were many children also present in that building who died in that bomb blast. It became the biggest case of domestic terrorism in the United States of America. Never had the country been terrorized by one of its own citizens, and the news spread like wildfire.

What McVeigh did was absolutely wrong, and killing innocent children made him equally guilty, though his colleagues in Elohim City believed him to be a martyr. McVeigh was arrested soon after the blast, and he was given capital punishment by the court. We believe that in case the makers decide to come up with a sequel to Waco: The Aftermath, they could take us through what actually happened in Elohim City in detail and how Timothy McVeigh started developing anti-establishment sentiments. In this season, we were only made aware of the existence of people like Pappy Miller, McVeigh, Andy the German, etc., but what they believed in and how they brought the various supremacist groups together could be catered to in detail in the next season.

What happened in Waco was a tragedy, and though both factions, i.e., the Davidians and the government, were at fault, in the end, due to their prejudiced approach, the government made the fault entirely theirs. They just needed to accept their faults, but the bloated egos of a few legislators sitting at the top level didn’t allow them to do so. Those who unfortunately got involved with the entire facade were scarred for life, and the way they looked at the world could never be the same again. For them, the world had lost its luster, and the only solace they had was that the future generation would be able to see the truth and realize that they were not terrorists or criminals and that they never intended to harm anybody. 

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Sushrut Gopesh
Sushrut Gopesh
I came to Mumbai to bring characters to life. I like to dwell in the cinematic world and ponder over philosophical thoughts. I believe in the kind of cinema that not necessarily makes you laugh or cry but moves something inside you.

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