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Lynn Crooks

3pm Interview, Friday, 7/20/90
---Lynn Crooks, Asst US Att (701) 239-5671
FARGO Friday (check on audio tapes of the radio broadcasts/take tape
duplicator) 655-1st Ave. North, Fargo, "The Old Post Office"
#6 Lynn Crooks
06:00:39:00 Crooks: ...probably one of the most realistic is, Stewart
is making all these big fantastic points and he tells the guy later, well,
I may be making a lot of nice points here, but you know, he's beating my
brains out. He said, you know I've got to come up with something better.
And that's right, that's the way trials work, you do all these cute little
things and they boost your ego, but they don't help your case much.
JJ: We all set? Um, well let's go back to that, beside "Anatomy
of a murder", who do you look back in your history and say, who do
you admire in your profession?
....1/25...Oh, I could be here all day talking about that. The man
that inspired me to really in answer to your question about being a lawyer
was a fellow by the name of Gene Crougar. And, Gene was State's Attorney
of Cass County at the time. And, he taught business law. And, I took business
law more or less because I didn't have any thing else that was convenient
to take and I just fell in love with it. I never had a course in college
that I enjoyed as much. And, I decided right then and there that I was
going to be a lawyer and I was in my second year of undergrad school. Prior
to that I don't think I had the foggest notion in the world of being a lawyer,
I just was never part of my life's ambition, as a matter of fact ...2/22...when
I told my father that I was going to be a lawyer, I think he would have
been happier if I would have told him I was going to be a bank robber...2/30...
My dad did not like lawyers and to his dying day I think he probably thought
that I was the only good honest lawyer in the country. And, I'm not so
sure he always thought that of me....2/43...
JJ: (to camera person) ...that's stuff we'll edit, so just keep it rolling
basically. Did we get all that, that we just?
CAMERA PERSON: Yeah, yeah.
JJ: (to Crooks) So going from your father, you went straight from your
four years to law school?
CROOKS: ...3/00...No, I went three years. At North Dakota, at the time,
you could get into law school after three years of under graduate school
and finish in six years and that's what I did. And, probably half of my
law class did. About two years after that they abolished that and you had
to have a degree to do it. So, I went through as a six year program as
part of one college. ...3/25...
JJ: ...3/35... We were talking a little bit I guess about your backgroung
and education. You basically came out of school and went to law school.
Did you go into private practise?
CROOKS: ...3/51...No, when I finished law school I started with the attorney
Generals's office in Bismark and they had a clerkship type of program at
the time. And, essentially what I did was started there with the understanding
that I'd be there a year and then a job opened up in a trial position that
they had for the what they call the Unsatisified Judgement Fund. And,
I took that and stayed another 2 1/2 years. And, then this job opened up
and I applied for it and I've been here eve since. So, that was in 1969.
JJ: So, you've alwas liked being in, what end of the law would you call
CROOKS: ...4/40...Trial work. I basically always wanted--by the time
I got out of law school to be a trial lawyer as opposed to simply being
an office lawyer--writing wills, doing taxes and that sort of thing. So,
I'm doing what I always wanted to do and still continue to want to do.
I have no real desire right now to get out into private practice or anything
else. I plan to finish my term out. I've got about ten --well about nine
years actually left with the U.S. Government and that's my existing plan.
JJ: So, they put you on a long term?
CROOKS: ...5/18...Well, it's pretty much standard federal employment--30
years. You don't necessarily have to quit after thirty, but you are eligible
for retirement. At that time I'll be 58 and I guess I'm going to consider
very seriously whether I am just going to go do something else....5/39...
JJ: Yea, is that tempting?
CROOKS: ...5/42...Yeah, it's tempting. You--particularly in criminal
proscution, I found that
....5/48...I am now proscuting the Grandson's of some of the people I
proscuted when I first started out 20 years ago and you wonder sometimes
if you've accomplished anything. Some of the Indian reservation cases worked
like that. ...6/04...
JJ: Before we get into the details of this case, what do you like best
about your job?
CROOKS: ...6/12...Ah, essentially the challenge of trials-the variety
of the experience you get. No trial is ever the same. No case is ever
the same and you are constantly challenged bascally to excel I supose or
perform, depending on how you define being a trial lawyer. See there's
a lot of theatrics involved in being a trial lawyer. And, you are constantly
challenged in trial work and it's something that I've always taken to.
I've just enjoyed. ...6/51...
JJ: Basically, that's what I like about what I do, is the variety. The
challenge, every project is different. Let's go into when this occurred.
If you could go back in your memory. I'd like to get what you remember
about when you first heard of the incident happening?
CROOKS: ...7/12...Well, it's one of those cases where everybody remembers
where you were when Kennedy was shot and if you're old enough when Pearl
Harbor was bombed, and so forth. But, this is probably one of those cases
that, in effect for me because I was sitting there watching The Winds of
War and I got a phone call. ...7/34... And, essentially the phone call just
literally stopped the action for me for the rest of the day. In the middle
of this drama, I'm being told that two friends of mine have just died on
the highway. And, then basically for the rest of that evening was spent
doing things that were in mental preperation for knowing that I am probaby
going to be doing something on that case, not necessarily a senior attorney,
but certainly someting....8/08... Because, ...8/08...every lawyer in our
office devoted a lot of time to that case. It wasn't just myself or Dennis
Fisher, all of us basically would be consumed by that case for probably
a couple of months, including Mr. Web, who is a U.S. Attorney, so I knew
the moment that this thing had occured that it was going to be something
of substantial impact to the district. ....8/35... And, I knew it was going
to be a substantial impact to me and I bascially started doing the Kahl
case within moments after hearing--or hanging up the phone and telling
my wife what had happened. I remember watching the ends of Winds of War
but I have no recollection of the story at all. ...8/56... And, I didn't
think about the story any more. And, the next morning I came down to the
office and Mr. Web and Mr. Near and I met and it was decided that I was
going to be the senoir trial man and Rodney asked me who I wanted to help.
And, I told him I wanted Dennis Fisher. And, so from then on Dennis and
I basically worked full time on that case until it was over...9/27...
JJ: Why did you pick Dennis?
CROOKS...9/30...For several reasons. Uh, Dennis was fairly new to the
office, but he was a hard worker. He was a very intense person, as I think
you've met him, ...9/43...Dennis is a very intense type guy. And, he was
the kinda guy that I kinda wanted to go around and stir things up and do
things and the kind of guy that I could say "Dennis, I thnk we ought
to do it--this or that project" ...10/01...and Dennis would immediately
run off and start doing it. And, I tried--I'd seen Dennis in action before
and I had faith in his ability as a trial lawyer. He was not nearly as experienced
in trial work as I was but I think uh was a very good trial lawyer, and
proved himself in this case. ...10/22... And, I basically felt that the
two of us would complement each other. And, we did. And, I think we did
vey much. I, despite the description of me as the bulldog, in Jim Corcoran's
book, I think I tend to try my cases a little more laid back than Dennis
does. And, I think his temperament and mine work perfectly together. ...10/52...
JJ: In the book, Corcoran talks about the pressure that kind of came
to you, it's like, almost like an audition, where the federal people came
CROOKS: Oh, yes.
JJ: Tell me about that?
CROOKS: ...11/09...We hadn't finished talking that morning, Rodney and
Garry and I, before we started getting calls from the department and it
was fairly obvious that this was not going to be the garden variety case.
In most of our criminal cases in our district and in every district,Washington
doesn't know what your doing, doesn't care what your doing, and they have
absolutlely no interest in finding out....11/38... You basically handle
your criminal docket all by yourself and nobody pays much attention to
it. And, that's the normal thing. The normal thing is basically "hands-off"
OF criminal cases. But, that is not the case when you get something of
this dimension...11/54... and we kinda knew that was coming. I'm not sure
we realized it was going to be quite as intense as it was, in a way. And,
as it turned out it was very untoward, in other words, things went very
well and very smoothly. But, ...12/13...we always knew that this case could
be jerked out of our hands "just like that."....12/18... I mean
there was that potential. And, the man from the Justice Department informed
Rodney as the very first thing that he said to him--that he was the man
that had pulled the U.S. Attorney's office in Texas off the Judge Woods
case. And, Rodney was somewhat taken aback by that as an opening line.
...12/43...But, the point was made, I suppose very quickly to us that ...12/49...we
had better demonstrate that we had the general fortitude and ability to
carry a case that was going to get some national attention. And, obviously
we did, beccase there was never any suggestion that we weren't going to
have the case. But, we always knew that we being watched and the potential
was there. ...13/08... After Mr. Lippy came, he sent Mr. Reynolds, and Mr.
Reynolds was just a superman, not--I should split that word--just a super
fellow. He came out and just basically just gave us some general help--gave
us some logistical help with the department and as a laison with the department.
And, we had kinda hoped that actually Reynolds would stay around for the
trial because we all liked him very well. ...13/38... He was a very talented
trial man. He was born and raised in the District of Columbia, but he had
been in the D.C. U.S. Attorney's office and he had done a lot of trial work.
And, so we did not regard his coming as interference, or really anytihing
other than giving us assistance. But, when Mr. Lippy was here, that was
pretty clearly an audition. ...14/07... And, there was no doubt that he
was not here just to see how things were going he was here to size us up.
And, apparently we passed. 14/18...
JJ: How about, it's mentioned in the book, the counts, the decision
on the charges to be made. Tell me a little about that process?
CROOKS: 14/28...That was finally my decision as trial lawyer. And,
I'm not sure I made the final choice quite in the way it may sound, but,
any lawyer that's going into a trial setting and almost certainly going
to have a trial, you basically need an indictment that you feel comfortable
with. ...14/54... And, so it was kinda recognized from the start with Jim
Reynolds, who was here when we planned it, myself, Dennis, Gary Anear, all
of the people that basically were in on the decision--I don't think there
was a lot of disagreement among the legal staff as to the final decision....15/17...Basically
the final decision was essentially I think mine. But, I wanted an indictment
that basically did not overcharge to the point where we were going to risk
a jury starting out with a bunch of "knee-jerk" aquitals....15/34...
And, then risking that there would be a run on the bank type of thing and
suddenly you're losing counts that you shouldn't lose. And, that's what
I was concerned about. When mainly in regars to Mrs. Kahl, and David Brower,
if we continued murder charges on both of those people, I felt that our
trust with the jury may very well be undermined. ....16/00... And, I wanted
to make sure that we would up with charging them with something that at
least the jury was not going to dismiss out of hand. And, they didn't.
From what I've heard later, Brower was acquited on some of the more serious
assault charges. But, that was hottly debated. ...16/17... And, it was
very hottly debated about whether or not Mrs. Kahl was going to get off.
As a matter of fact, one of the jurors that told me afterward, that the
majority sentiment was that everyone wanted to convict her...16/31... but
they basically felt that "Well, given the court's instructions, the
governments evidence just isn't strong enough." And, they finally
went on reasonable doubt, but with some reluctance. And, I don't know if
he was telling me that simply to stroke me a little bit because he happened
to be a guy that I had known and probably most of my life, ...16/56...which
to this day I don't understand why they left on the jury. A guy named Pankow
from Hankenson ...17/03... who had known my family, and I guess had known
me when I was just a little shaver. He was much older than I was. But,
at any rate I had talked to Mr. Pankow and that's essentially what he had
told me. Whether that was an accurate description, I have no way of knowing,
but I simply say that there was no feeling among the jury, at least what
I got from him, that we had over charged...17/29... There was genuine disagreement
as to whether or not they should be found guilty as charged of everything.
So, I think my objective proved valid. I think ultimately I made the right
decision. If we had charged them with murder, I'm very much afraid that
that would have been treated as over charging and basically would undermine
my credability and Dennis' credability and I think would have hurt our case.
And, that's why we didn't. There was sentiment on law enforcement's
part that they should be charged with murder and we did not feel that we
wanted to risk that and I'm glad we didn't. And, ultimately I think the
law enforcement came around to agree with us. ...18/11
JJ: Yeah, was that also part of the factor, I guess you had to make
a decision probably between first degree, and what you went for was second
degree wasn't it?
CROOKS: ...18/21...Not, no, it was charged out as first degree. That
isn't really a decision because that's all--that's an automatic thing in
federal criminal law you've automatically charged somebody with both first
and second degree when you charge them with murder. So, you can charge
second degree murder but there's no particular reason to....18/40... You
almost always charge first because it's almost automotic that's it's going
to go to a lesser second anyway. And, there's so litle difference between
them that I don't know many proscutors that start out with second degree.
You almost always charge first. And, the sentence is identical. In theory
it isn't, but in actuality it is....19/03...
JJ: right, so one's premeditation isn't it, versus...
CROOKS: Yea...19/07...The only difference is premeditation. Theoritically,
you can get the death sentence under the federal statutes, in actuality
you can't. So, you're talking life imprisonment with a maximum sentence
under either.... The only difference is that if they got convicted of first
degree you've got an automatic life sentence, where as on second the judge
has descretion. But, beyond that he gets the same sentence. ...19/30...
JJ: What about the logic of separate trials versus as it turned out
a group trial? What was your thinking and what's the strategy there?
CROOKS: ...19/41...Well, I don't think my thinking was anything different
than normal. Normally, a proscutor wants to tie everybody together because
normally you've got the best chance of convicting everybody as a group.
Simply, what you risk when you have separate trials, is pointing at the
empty chairs--is "yes, we confess. Charlie did it." Charlie
isn't here. Why didn't the government charge Charlie?...20/07... And,
that's the usual defense when you're trying individually. If Charlie is
sitting there in a chair, it's not quite as easy to point to Charlie. And,
from a defense standpoint they obviously would like to have the empty.
From our prospective, as a proscutor, you rarely want the empty chair. ...20/26...
And, we have that problem in this case with the empty chair with Gordon
Kahl. But, there's nothing we can do about that. We would have loved to
have him there for trial also. ...20/37... But that's a tactical problem
that we have to be concerned about. Are they simply going to blame Gordon
Kahl? The empty chair? And to a certain extent, they tried to do that.
It didn't suceed, but it was an attempt. ...20/51...
JJ: Let's go into I guess, the, you go into the preliminary, I'm forgetting
the term, but the issues that go before the pretrial issues. Which are,
you had all these issues that you knew were going to come up. Which was
the tax protesting beliefs of the defendants. All sorts of strange things.
I think they were going to come up with. I noticed in your Voire Dire
they had things about masons and like that. How did you deal with all of
that? And what were your thoughts about that stuff?
CROOKS: ...21/35...Yes, that was a concern. We filed a motion in limity,
which was basically designed not really to do much other than to alert the
judge that we were concerned about that subject.
...21/47... Essentially what we asked the judge is to simply exclude
from trial a defense based on "The government's invalid." "The
16th amendment is unconstitutional." "Paper money, the federal
reserve system is invalid," ect. , the tax protest type of defense....22/10...
We didn't want that getting into the court room and basically, even as
a ploy trying to diffuse, or to distract the jury's attention for what we
are here about. ...22/24...We are here about a murder. And, we particularly
care whether these people like taxes or don't like taxes. ...22/30... As
it turns out, if you would have took a vote among the proscution staff,
you'd find that most of us don't like taxes very well either. But, the
point was that we didn't want this case defended on the basis that taxes
are evil so therefore they have a right to shoot marshalls. ...22/47...Now,
legally obviously that is not a defense and obviously the court does not
have to permit that to try to make it a defense. And, that's what we tried
to do. As it turned out, they tactically did not really take that bent
anyway....23/03... Because, I think--well again getting back to the decision
that I made, and Dennis made, was that ...23/10...we did everything in our
power to make sure that they did not wind up having to get tax-protester
lawyers--that they had normal, hard-working, legitimate, defense lawyers.
...23/22... And, they did, they had some very good ones. Just by way of
illustration, I think Jonathon Garris is highly regarded as one of the best
technical criminal defense lawyers in Fargo. Irvin Nodland is probably
at least, from a public standpoint, is regarded as the best--currently the
best criminal defense lawyer in the state...23/53... And, we did not want
those people replaced with a bunch of tax-protest type lawyers. So, we
basically did whatever we could to make sure that those people stayed in
the case. We started discovery very early on so that they would have something
to point to their clients with competency in getting documents from the
governments, and things of that nature. ...24/22... And, I don't know that,
you know that we--we obvioulsy didn't have a lot of control over that but
...24/27...we didn't want to do anything which would insight these people
to fire these lawyers and and to hire a bunch of tax-protesters. And,
that was important because that would somewhat control the kind of defense
that was going to be offered. Legitimate lawyers were going to offer classical
normal type of defenses and that's the way it worked out....24/50... And,
you look at the transcript you don't see any suggestion that they had the
right to shoot marshalls. Or, that taxes justify any kind of action--that
you want. These lawyers basically defended on the basis of their self defense
and this and that and it was very classical types of defense, which is
what we wanted. ...25/18...
JJ: Right, so, going into the trial what was your biggest fear of what
might happen? I know that like every actor that has stage fright, as you
go in, what was your fear?
CROOKS: ...25/32...Well, that's hard to answer that question Jeff about
what my greatest fear was because obviously the greatest fear of a trial
lawyer is losing the case. By the time we got into trial, I'm not sure
I saw a lot that was going to go wrong other that I think we were a little
bit concerned about whether or not they were going to be successful in blaming
the empty chair. ...26/04...
That's the biggest concern we had probably in the case was that somehow
or other Gordon Kahl gets the blame for everything and these guys are just
kinda along for the ride. ...26/18... So, I suppose from a trial standpoint,
that's what we were shooting at as much as anything. And, we took some
steps to deal with that. And, the way we presented evidence was designed
to basically off-set that. ...26/33...
JJ: Yeah, I guess that, what was your reaction, when they must have
at some point brought in what I call the brown bag confession of Gordon
Kahl. When you looked at that what was your initial reaction?
CROOKS: ...26/47... That had been circulating for quite a while and
I knew it was cominng. The last thing I wanted was that in evidence. And,
I didn't think the judge would put it in because it technically was not
admissible on any ground we could dream up. ...27/03...
Judge Benson is a very good "follow the rules" type of judge.
We felt very confident that he wouldn't accept it and he didn't. Essentially
our argument was quite simple, this is a self-serving statement which certainly
cannot be taken as in culpitory of himself because he's a fugitive. ...27/28...
It isn't a matter of a guy speaking against his penal interest, for example,
when getting up on the witness stand and saying "well, I did it. Charlie
had nothing to do with it" which would then subject you to certain
conviction--he's got no risk of conviction....27/46... He's nowhere around.
And, that's what we argued. He has no incentive to tell the truth. He's
gone and he obviously intends never to get caught. So, there's absolutely
no underpinning of truthfullness about that statement. Therefore, there's
no guarantee of trust....28/06...We have no reason to accept that as a
departure from the hearsay rule. And, that's what the judge said. But,
that wasn't a biggy in some respects because I had faith all along that
the judge was not going to buy that--cause I didn't think he would. ...28/21...
It was so clearly in violation of hearsay. It didn't suprise me that they
tried it. But it would have surprised me if the judge would have let it
into evidence. ...28/30...
JJ: What about as you did your investigation and started to see what
went down out there. I'm sure, I'd like to hear a little bit about how
much confusion there was on your part when you first looked at it as far
as figuring out what really happened. Then of course we know how difficult...
CROOKS: ...28/50...Surprisingly little. We had the eye witnesses that
were in the house and within a day we found out that there were such eye
witnesses and they were interviewed. We wound up I think pretty well piecing
together what had happened within not very long....29/10... The problem
was that we weren't quite sure what we had. The big problem was who came
over to the car and basically did the close range "coup de taut"
of Bob Cheshire? ...29/27... The witnesses in the house said that that was
Faul. They stayed with that up through trial, no matter what I told them,
or what the evidence told them, or anything else. The three of them that
saw that shooting maintained adamently that it was Scott Fall that did it...29/48...
Our evidence indicated that it couldn't have been, simply because the bullets
that were found next to the car did not match the ones that were back by
the trailer house where he was firing from. They matched the little pile
where Gordon Kahl was firing from. ...30/03... So, the only possibility
would hav been that there was a change of weapons or something like that.
But, we didn't know that till we got the ballistics back. And, eventually
when we got the ballistics that confirmed pretty well that indeed the witnesses
were wrong. ...30/21... Either that and we're all wrong and that there was
a change of clothing or something like that or a change of guns and indeed
Scott Fall did do it. That's a possiblity, but I don't think that's happened.
I think what happened is because of the.... excitment, because of the moving
people, they saw him moving toward the car and their vision was cut off
by Gordon Kaul going over there, because that makes more sense to me. I
don't see that Scott Faul...30/54...
indeed was the one that did the execution. But, the witnesses have never
backed off from that...31/01...they have stuck with it thru it from cross
examination and basically a warning from myself and I said they're going
to hit you hard on this, and quite frankly, I don't believe it...31/12...but,
I'm going to ask you and you tell what you saw...31/17... when they got
on the witness stand, if you look at the transcript...(TAPE CUTS OFF AT
...00/35...to continue with the answer that I was giving you on the
eye witnesses. When
Irv Nodland got up and cross examined, obviously, he was the one with
the motive to do it because he represented Faul, he basically confronted
them with the bullistics. Those shells here were matching the ones that
are down by the body are not the ones up by your trailer house and therefore
it's impossible that Scott Faul would have done it. ...01/00...
And, the reaction of the witnesses was "That's what you say Mr.
Nodland, but he did it." Irv was so frustrated when he got through
with it because these witnesses would not back off. They were absolutely
convinced. And, I don't know the answer. All I know is that I presented
it like I did and as honestly as I could. I reccommended to the jury that
the witnesses were probably wrong...1/27...
I couldn't say any more than that, I wasn't there. But, that's the
way we played it and it was one of those things as you started to get into
in looking at the investigative part of the case, going up through and to
trial, it was very important for us to know, because it made a difference
how we treated Scot Faul. ...1/50...
If he executed Bob Cheshire I am going to try his case different than
if he was the executioner. And, indeed when it was clear that he was not,
I did change.
Another question was what was Brower's part? Brower was there; he had
a gun. There were shotgun shells found in the general area where he was.
And, so the question was who fired those shells?...2/15...
Bullistics told us it was not him. As as matter of fact they were
Jim Hobson's shell. So, basically we were excluding him as a firer and
we treated him different. Essentially we were in a position and were willing
and ready to give Brower the same deal we gave Mr. Wagner. Now he didn't
use as good a judgement as Mr. Wagner. ....2/43...
...2/51...Essentially it was that we felt that given what actually occurred,
what Wagner had plead to quantified fairly well what we judged their culpibility
to be, particularly if they were willing to come forward and say "Hey,
we want no part of this. We don't support it, justify it. We're sorry
it happened. ...3/18...
And, that's what Wagner did. Wagner's sentencing was basically very
classical. It was sympathy, regret, sympathy for the family, regret for
his part in it. It was basically representing to the judge genuine contrition
that he was drawn into this thing....3/40...
Brower made a bad choice. I'm not sure that his overall culpability
was nessarily any worse than Wagner's, but at some point Brower decided
that "Well, I'm going to support Scott and Yori and I'm going to do
all that I can, including lying, to help them out, and he paid for it.
It was his choice; he had the same choice that Wagner did. ...4/11...
But, in making the choice that he did I think he made a grave, grave
error. But, you know, I'm not his lawyer. His lawyer advised him to take
the deal. There's no question about that; I know that to be the case.
He did not follow his lawyer's advice and he got a worse deal from the jury
and from the judge than he would have gotten from us. No question. ...4/35...
...4/45...Basically, he did time served which was three or four months,
I suppose, something like that. And, that was it....4/51...
...5/00...I knew you were going to ask me that and I don't remember
it exactly what the deal was. It was harboring a witness I think or harboring
a fugitive, I think. But, it was a lesser crime and I think probably the
same crime that Brower was ultimately convicted of. The difference in Brower,
he also got convicted of conspiracy which was considerably worse. ...5/22
...5/50...The evidence, I think at trial, was fairly concise as to what
happened. When it all got reconstructed, I don't think there was a whole
lot of question about who was where and had done what....6/07...
What we basically had done is we had prepared from different compendiums,
little piles of shells from eye witnesses and other things--where bodies
were, where blood was, a schematic and we kept filling it in. And, that
was one of our trial exhibits. It turned out that, when we got it all done,
that was about what the evidence suppported. And, essentially it was this.
...6/35... Muir had gone up the road and was supposed to have had the
road block set up about a mile down the road. Well, for some reason, known
only to no one, he's sitting on top of the hill with the red light on. ...6/55...
Well, what happened as Wagner said is they come over the hill and there's
the flashing red light down the road about a mile and of course immideately
the bad guys decide that they are not going to continue down to the road
block. ...7/12...
So, they pull in to the Reardon driveway. Well, now the Marshall is
down the road a mile farther than he is and here are these two guys followed
by Cheshire. And, you got these two cars sitting in a driveway--and I've
got a schematic I can show you later and you can take pictures of it if
you want. But essestially what happens is those two cars are in the driveway....7/34...
Cheshire pulled up diagonally across the road blocking them from the
south and the Marshall is still a mile down the road. They call on the
radio that "Get down here Ken." So, he comes down--he comes down
to about to where the trees start, which is maybe a hundred yards, a little
more than a hundred yards and stops there....7/56...
He lets out Wigglesworth. Deputy Wigglesworth gets out. By this
time Mr. Faul has gotten out of one of the cars that he's in. He's run
up by the trailer house...8/10...
So, Wigglesworth is going out across the pasture, kinda gonna cut
him off and get around behind him.
...8/22...Then Muir pulls back down the highway a little further and
now he's in fairly close. ...8/26... Now unfortunately we're down where
everybody is about 75 feet or so apart.
We're basically at the kind of range where a good gunman, a good rifleman,
can pick somebody off basically without aiming.
...8/43... And, we're now in a situation where if somebody starts shooting,
it's almost certain that someone is going to die. We're not talking any
more about people ducking for cover, because who ever gets shot at first
is probably gonna get hit. And, with a 223 round, you've got a good chance
of getting killed, and that's why the military uses 223's. They're an extremely
deadly weapon....9/07...
As long as they don't hit something before they hit you, the chances
are that they are going to take an arm off or a leg off, or kill you. Much
more deadly than a 3006 in that regard, because a 3006 will go through you
and it'll just leave a big hole, but a 223 won't, it'll go in and it'll
explode and you will have shrapnel all over you. ....9/30...
And, that's what happened ultimately when you take the x-rays of the
bodies--the two dead marshalls. They're just littered with shrapnel.
There's no exit wounds; they go in and they explode and that's what happens.
So, that's what we're dealing with. We're dealing now with a situation
which is so intense and so tight that it's literally a powder keg waiting
to explode and it does explode....9/52...
What basically you've got at the time the shooting started--you've
got Hobson getting out of the Cheshire vehicle and going around and he's
kind of in the middle of the thing and he's up out of the road. And, he
comes up onto the highway with one of their cars--next to one of their cars.
Kapp (?) is by the right door of the Cheshire vehicle. Cheshire is
behind the driver's seat or at his lefthand door. Yori Kahl is at a fencepost
about 75 feet out--directly out from Cheshire. ...10/25...
It's not actually a fencepost, it's a great big fencepost with a utility
pole. So, that's where he is. Gordon Kahl is right smack dab in the middle
of the y of the highway, next to his car. Yori Kahl is up next to the
trailer house by the corner. He's now been cut off by Wigglesworth. And,
Wagner is flat down in his face in the back seat of the car and so is Mrs.
Brower is out beside one of the cars flat on the ground.
So, you've got all the players in place and basically then what you have
is roughly about nine minutes of standoff. ...11/08...
And, the way you know this is simply by the radio transmissions.
And, you hear the radio transmissions which were recorded by the state radio,
talking back and forward about what they are doing, and what they are intending
to do and you basically can count them off with the state counter, from
the time they get there to the confrontation starts and until about the
time that you figure that the shooting is starting is right around nine
And, then essentially the first shot is fired. Somebody says "Who
shot first?" "Who
made that shot?" And then all hell brakes loose and you're talking
maybe less than a minute of actual firing and the firing's all over, and
then you start with a body count....
11/55... But basically what the witnesses describe as follows: Capp
says that the first shot came from the direction of where Yori Kahl was....12/04...He
said it came from over in that direction and he didn't actually see the
muzzle blast but he looked over there and he saw Yori Kahl looking like
he had just fired. At that same minute, he said he saw Cheshire reach for
his throat area indicating he had been hit and saw some blood....12/22...
Almost simultaneously then, there's a confrontation between him and
Gordon Kahl in which there's shot exchanged. Capp fires twice at Yori,
hits him on the second shot, which indeed was confirmed, he ahd buckshot
in him. It's one of the things he went to the hospital for. ...12/47...
Sometime in there, apparently Ken Muir has also fired at Yori, because
that obviously is the shot that is in the pistol that's on his chest. Sometime
in there Capp is hit, takes his trigger finger off and I think if I remember
right it was his right trigger finger, takes his trigger finger off....13/20...
He kinda backs out the action. Bob Cheshire is hit again by someone,
we don't know who. So, now he's got a bullet that goes in his side and
under his arm, about here, goes into his chest and just disintegrates.
But, in the process, severing a couple of major arteries. So, he's basically
bleeding to death internal....13/44...
He's then hit again on kind of the side of his face about where the
Vegas (?) nerve would come down and the carodtid artery. And there's an
argument at trial about what that would effect his voice--if his Vegas nerve
is severed then he's got no more voice. ...
14/01... But, he's got those two hits within seconds and we aren't sure
who shot the second one but we're reasonably sure that Yori shot the first
one. The second one could have either been Gordon Kahl, or it could have
been Scott Faul. Scott fires roughly five shots from the corner of the
trailer house. ...14/23...
Those all hit within probably a three or four foot radius in the front
window, or right in the front of the vehicle. They're all right basically
where Cheshire was. We don't know if one of those shots was one that went
into the side of his face or not, but we know that those shells were all
went in, were passable from follow thru, ...14/46...
that was followed through. Somewhere in the frey (?), someone, and
we think it probably was Gordon Kahl, turns and shoots Marshall Muir--one
shot right through the heart. And, he just drops just like a stone. Another
shot is fired at the Deputy Sneibel (?)....15/07...
I'm not sure it was a ricquochet or what, it hits him kind of in the
hand--in the upper thigh. Another shot is shot and apparently goes under
the cars, hits a rock, and a rock is driven up into Jim Hobson's head and
basically he's then semi conscious from then on--does brain damage, and
serious permanent damage to Hobson. ...15/36...
That was not apparently a bullet. It was actually a riquocheting rock
that was hit off the assphault. So, there basically are all the shots that
hit anybody. The only one of our team that wasn't hit at all is Wigglesworth.
And, he's not really in the firing. He never fires his gun. He's
coming around the other side. None of the other defendants were hit at
all. As far as we know, the only one that was hit Yori Kahl--we know he
was hit by Capp with the buckshot. And, he was obviously hit by someone,
probably Ken Muir, in the pistol. ...16/19...
So, that's essentially how the set-up is. And, that's where all the
players are. We're talking now about maybe a minute worth of firing to
do all that, less time than it took me to tell you all that....16/32...
...16/52...Well, I'm not sure my opinion is worth a whole lot other than
I think it's probably the same opinion of most law enforcement officers
have had after they look at what went wrong. And, I think most of them
just simply judged what went wrong is they got in too close if they were'nt
willing to shoot. ...17/11...
If they weren't going to get in and give the order to drop your guns
or else and fire if they didn't. If they weren't willy to do that, then
they were in too close. If they had gone in said "Drop your arms,
we're going to fire" and been prepared to fire, they would have been
within their legal rights. ...17/32...
They probably would have been sorely condemned by the public, becaue,
you know, we all like to think that we give a guy every opportunity to surrender
before you fire. But, legally, they had every right to go in, shoot these
guys basically for pointing weapons at them. ...17/48...
They had a right to have weapons and the defendants didn't--as simple
as that. I don't think the marshalls were ever prepared to do that. If
they weren't, then they should not have been in that close, because the
alternative was simply backing off far enough so that these guys were not
sure that they were going to hit anybody on their first shot....18/10...
Because once you've taken that factor out of it, it's going to be
a deterrant for them taking a shot at anyone. Because if have to--if they
have any concern about shooting and missing, they probably won't shoot.
They won't start the firing....
18/24... Basically, what they either should have done, I suppose, is
either backed out and abandoned the whole project, or else, backed off far
enough until additional law enforcement had gotten there and they can simply
put them under seige....18/40...
And, you know, nobody particularly wanted, from the law enforcement
side, to wind up getting into a gun fight and mowing a bunch of tax protesters
down over a bunch of misdemeanor tax violations. That was not the objective....18/55...
And, that's clear from what you see from the activites of the marshalls
that that was not their objective. Well, the point is if that isn't your
objective, then you better do it in a way that doesn't promote a gun fight.
Unless you youself are prepared to go ahead and use the violence you
are entitled to use, then you better not force the other guy into doing
it. Because, obviously if he shoots at you you are going to have to shoot
back. ...19/23...
...19/32...Oh, no question about it--but with cause. You know, I've
been doing tax protesters, oh since somewhere around '73, 72'-73'--quite
frankly up until this time, I had neve thought that there was anything particularly
dangerous about tax protestors. ...19/50...
I'd been threatened by them. I'd had them go out of court swearing
at me and threatening me and whatnot and I laughed it off. It was not taken
as a serious threat by me. It was not taken as a serious threat by anyone
else because basically these people had never demonstrated any willingness
to actually carry through with anything violent. ...20/10...
Obviously, Gordon Kahl was an exception. And, I don't think that those
marshalls recognized that.
Now there you get down to one of the marshalls, Bud Warren, former U.S.
Marshall, Bud perhaps did. And, Bud maybe forsaw better than others what
was going to happen....20/32...
But, quite clearly, Ken Muir didn't and the other marshalls didn't.
And, I don't necessarily fault them for that because I think they felt
that if they got this guy surrounded he wasn't really going to murder a
law enforcement officer rather than surernder. ...20/50...
I don't think it ever ocured to them that he would shoot them down
rather than surrender if it got to the point where he couldn't escape and
they obviously thought they had him to the point where they thought he couldn't
escape. ...21/02...
Well, it's pretty clear to me that part of their thinking was not that
we are going to get into a gun fight but how do we keep this guy surrounded
and how do we keep him escaping some way.
It's kinda of basically like Custer and the Indians. The explaination
for Custer and the Indians was that Custer, quite frankly, did not think
the Indians were going to fight. He was more concernded about them escaping.
And, when it turned out that they were going to fight, Custer was just
totally out gunned and out manned and everything went wrong. In some ways
that's what happened here, a misscalculation of your enemy because that's
what it certainly turned out to be. ...21/45...
...22/08...He--Darrell is an enigmatic figure in all this. The law enforcement
people do not like Darrell. They've never forgiven Darrell for what he
did. There are a lot of people in law enforcement, that to this day, will
swar up and down, that Darrell was actually a fellow-traveler of Gordon
Kahl and was kind of rooting for him....22/32...
I never accepted that. I think that the problem with Darell was really
a problem of nerve. I think Darrell thought, probably more correctly than
the marshalls that I've just said, that there was going to be a shoot out.
I think he probably judged Gordon Kahl as more dangerous than the marshalls
And, I think he felt that there's going to be a shoot out. He didn't
want to be aprt of it, not necessarily for any great sympathy for Gordon
Kahl, but because he didn't want any part of a shoot out. And, I think
that pretty much explains it. ...23/10...
There was substantial suspicion that he had tipped them off and that
sort of thing and that did not bear out. There was some calls made to him
by Mr. Brower, but there was no indication, by Mr. Brower, or anybody else,
or by anyone surrounding Mr. Graff, that he in fact had tipped them off.
Or, that he had done anything to frustrate the marshall's arrent attempt.
But, I will never be able to convince a lot of law enforcement of that.
They have never forgiven Darrell for his part in it. I don't know--you
know, it's hard for me, as a proscutor, to go beyond that and to simply
say that I felt that there was no criminal culpability. I felt that there
was no serious question that Darrell deserved proscution or anything of
that nature. ...24/09...
I think I made a pretty clear decision on that, and the other people
in our office did. I guess I might have some personal opinions as to his
grit and what not, but I'm not sure I want to necessarily express those.
Obviously, the law enforcement people felt that he should have gone
along and he should have cooperated. He should have helped. And, maybe
another person ther would have made the difference. ...24/38...
The same point is made in regard to Bud Warren, by the way, that Bud
had been there. He knew this guy. He had a little rapport with him. Maybe
Bud being there would have made a difference. Maybe he would have been
able to talk him into throwing his gun down....24/54...
So, that argument has been made with Bud the same way. Law enforcement
had never forgiven Bud for refusing to go. I don't want to necessarily
get my own personal opinion beyond relating that, from law enforcement standpoint,
both of those men did not engratiate themselves with their law enforcement
officers, and I don't know if they have ever regained that. ...25/20...
I think Bud probably died never having reconciled himself with his
former marshall friends, or the other people in law enforcement. I don't
think he ever did. ...25/34...
...25/53...yeah, I think the weakness of the book, from my perspective,
is that the editors talked him into dropping some of the trial out. And,
I know that happened because I don't think Jim has made any bones about
it. They wanted him to rewrite it. They wanted him to put more of the
farm problem into, things of that nature....26/14...
And, maybe that gave it a broader appeal, but I think it weakened
it as a story of Gordon Kahl, and a story of the trial, and so forth. I
think, from my own perspective, I would have liked to see more of the trial
thrown in there. There was some really great trial scenes that he could
have developed more than he did, and I think some fun scenes.
...26/39... For example, the defense--funniest thing I've ever seen
done in a court room. The defense did a little pantomime. All of the defense
lawyers were playing roles. They kind of reconstructed this--what had happened.
And, they had it all timed out by somebody and they rapped their ruler
for the shells being fired and all sorts of things....27/02...
Everybody in the court room is sitting there with their mouths open.
"What on earth are they doing?" It's the dumbest thing I ever
heard of. And, that would have been a wonderful thing to have developed
in a book because I'd never seen anybody pull a stunt like that....27/19...
And, the judge is sitting up there--you could just see judge Benson,
normally a very stern individual, just sitting there "What in hell
is going on here?" But, it was one of those little things that, yeah,
if you would have had more room, you could have developed because it was
a fun little thing. ...27/37...
There was some dramatic things that didn't get in. But, if you look
at what he put in, given the space that the editors had given him, or allowed
him, yeah, I suppose he put in about what he had to. But, there would
have been other things that I would have added. ...27/52...
...28/08...Well, the problem I had with the farm thing--I think he did
an excellent job of talking about the farm problems, and that's problems
that, as he said in the book, that are very close to my heart. My roots
are in North Dakota. My family still farms. My brother-in-law is farming
our family farm. And, that's something that's near and dear to me...28/32...
But, I don't know that Jim made quite the transition that he needed
to about what that really had to do with Gordon Kahl. Because, when it
really got down to it, the things that had gone wrong with Gordon Kahl,
went wrong with him about 1945 when he came back from the war. ...28/52...
And, he never really truly came back from the war in the sense that
Gordon Kahl was never the same afterwards, as I understood the development,
character development, not just from his book, from what the FBI had told
me, and basically their background. ...29/08...
So, what did that have to do with it other than to show that, yes,
the times were right for this sort of thing to happen. But, would it have
made any difference to Grodon Kahl? The answer, unfortunately, is no.
What went wrong with Gordon Kahl would have gone wrong in good,bad, or indifferent
Because, there had been a lot of good times since World War II, and
a lot of very good times on the farm, and none of that straightened Gordon
Kahl out. You know, what it did--the obvious thing that there were problems
on the farms that basically they looked to people like Gordon Kahl as "Do
they have the answer?" ...29/56...
There is no question that that happened. Some of these meetings--the
meeting in Medina was a meeting like that, a lot of people that went to
that meeting, went there thinking "Do these guys have the answera as
to how to solve the farm problem."...30/11...
Well, as it turned out, what was being discussed at this stupid meeting
in Medina is whether or not blacks were going to allowed into this stupid
township. And, most of the people came away saying "What the hell
did we go to that for? We got nothing against blacks. If they want to
come up here and farm, that's their business but we want to find out how
do we get the price of wheat up?" ...30/33...
And, for the practical matter that Gordon Kahl had to offer gave no
solice to hardly anybody, other than the tax protester.
...00/05...And the tax protester stuff fit pretty good but the farm
problem didn't just seem to ever connect up. That's what I was left with,
and that's what a lot of people were left with. ...00/13...
...00/28...That's Sarah Vogel and obviously she got to be the financier
of Gordon Kahl, but, yeah, you're right, there was never a connection that
I thought was properly made there and a lot of people felf that way and
I think Jim felt that way. Jim did not particularly want to write it that
way, but, I think the editors felt that they needed it to get more of a
general interest and that's why it's there. ...00/57
...1/05...Well, you don't know. You know, if you wind up with a Jessica
Lang's countRy thing, type of approach, or if it's going to be murder on
the prarie appoach, I mean I don't know. It's going to be interesting.
...1/27...Oh, there was some great cout room stuff. One of the funnest
things I ever did at trial was a cross examination of Dr. Smith. And, I
just never had a good a time cross examining anybody in my life as their
Dr. Smith who is their general all-purpose expert....1/45...
You know, he was a glass expert; he was a blood expert; he was this
expert and that expert. And, Dr. Smith, incidentally I think quite highly
of, we use him ourself, but quite obviously he was asked to do more than
he had the capability to do. And, he was one of those experts that crawled
out on a limb so far that I could just chop him off one segment at a time....2/13...
It was a lot of fun for a trial lawyer to do that. I mean it's just
thoroughly enjoyable to chop an expert off because he literally was saying
things that he didn't know as much about as I did. You get into bullistics,
and I had, obviously, had been more associated with bullistics than Dr.
Smith. ...2/31...
But, there were some fun things that happened during his cross examination.
And, there were some fun things that happened with Dr. Petty. He was probably
the most impressive expert witness that I've ever seen in my 20 years, and
I've seen some good ones. But, Dr. Petty got down and he took off his coat
and he talked to the jury for about like an hour with no questions....2/56...
He did a lecture and it was beautiful--just sittin there thinking
"God, this is good." But, there were a lot of things, you know,
you could develop out of that trial that would have made interesting reading,
interesting watching that there just wasn't space. ...3/14...
...3/26...Oh, no you never would because the way that came most of it
wouldn't be in the record.
I mean, you've got these lawyers running all over the court room and
they're rapping their gavels, and they are doing this and doing that. And,
the judge is sitting up there saying "What in the hell is going on."...3/42...
And, then they finish it up by asking Dr. Smith, "Well now Dr
Smith, could that have happened?" Smith saying "Well, I don't
know. I suppose." It had the jury laughing. It had us laughing.
It even had them laughing because it was one of those funny things
that even the judge cracked a little smile over it. Because, nobody expected
it. It caught us all by complete surprise. And, it was one of those things
that could have developed just artistically because his article that day
in the paper wrote that up fairly well....4/22...
I remember that when he wrote it up that night he said "Well,
we all got a little treat. And, he described this thing in the paper.
And, I think if he would have taken his Fargo Forum paper article and plugged
it in there, I think it would have been a nice little addition. ...4/38...
...4/49...I don't think there was a serious threat. If there was, it
was deterred probably by a show of force. The marshalls had a very, very
tight security which was there more for deterrant than anything else. ...5/06...
I mean it was basically there to make sure that there wasn't anybody
that it think it was easy to do anything, and there never was an incident.
Things went along very smoothly. There was no problem. ...5/20...
Probably, a week or so before the trial I started getting phone calls--the
hang-up calls, the dead line calls. I guess I felt somewhat uneasy. I
didn't know quite what was going to be the potential for that. My house
was being watched and Dennis's house was being watched. ...5/47...
As a matter of fact, it was kind of funny, my neighbor had a company
car that had Wisconsin plates on it. And, he had a relative of his come
to visit him for the weekend with Minnasota plates on it. So, he's got
this Wisconsin plate car and this Minnesota plate car parked out kinda in
front of my house....6/08...
And all at once, here comes the sirens and here's the policemen saying
"You know who these people are with these cars out there." And,
this was the Wickstom from Wisconsin which was what's behind it and I said
"Yeah, it's my neighbor's car and I think that's his brother or somebody."
And, he said "Oh God, you guys nearly gave us a heart attack. We
figured you were about ready to get assaulted by Wickstom and crew from
Wisconsin." ...6/38...
But, yeah, it was watched closely and I felt good about that but I
also obviously knew that if somebody wanted to do something to me they didn't
have any great difficulty doing it. What Jim says in the book is absolutely
correct. I got my shot gun out and loaded it and put it beside my bed,
not necessarily becasue I thought there was anything useful to be done with
it, but it kind of reassured my wife. ...7/03...
I think she was nervous. Yeah, I don't think it was ever any of us
that were involved in the government side didn't recoginze that there was
a potential there for serious personal consequences. We were careful.
It's stupid, but when I got into my car after trial every day I'd always
look under the wheels to make sure that somebody had stuck a little plastic
explosive bomb that i'm gonna drive over. I had no idea if there is such
a bomb made but I always--I convinced myself that there was some use to
make sure that there was nothing under my wheel. ...7/44...
In actuality, my car was watched pretty closely. But, yeah, there
was a lot of tension. There was a lot of tension for the judge.
...7/55... There was certainly tension for the jurors. Mr. Pankow, the
juror that I mentioned earlier told me he felt very uneasy, not necessairly
becasue they were sequestered, they were uneasy for what was going to happen
afterward. They just didn't know. "If we returned
verdicts, are we going to wind up being...?"...8/19...
And, they kind of concluded apparently "Well, we do our duty
and that's that." And, that's what Dennis and I concluded. You can't
be deterred by it. But, ther's still a nervousness. ...8/32...
...9/15...Well, I am a 32nd degree Mason which means basically that
you've gone through the advancement of the 3rd degree Masonry which is basically
you're standard run-of-the-mill--if you're going to join the Shrine you've
got to go up Yorkish rights or Scottish rights and I went Yorkish rights,
or Scottish rights and the end of that is 32nd degree Mason. ...9/40...
So, yeah, that's true but I'm happy to report that I've never been
involved in human sacrifice. And, certainly that's nothing to do with Masonic
Lodge at all....9/54...
But, yeah, there was something I have no idea historically what accounts
for it, but they do not like Masons. They don't like Jews. They don't
like blacks. Now, I don't know if that puts all of us in the same kettle,
but, yeah Masons--when one of them saw that I had a Masonic square and compass
on my hand--"I mean, holy smoke, that guy's a Mason!" ...10/25...
It turns out, you know there are a lot of Mason's involved. Judge
Benson had taken a (?) from a lodge, but he was a Mason. Rodney Web was
a Mason and still is an active Mason. Gary Anear is a Mason. And, Ken
Aldridge, the chief investigator is a Mason. There are a lot of Masons.
There are a lot of Masons in Fargo-Moorehead, and a lot of Masons involved
in government, ...10/56...
a lot of Masons everywhere like George Washington and on and on. I have
no idea, because when you look at the founding fathers a very large percentage
of them were Masons. I never made the connection of what set these people
off thinking that there was something sinister about them, other than Masons
have obviously gotten a hard time from different sections as being a secret,
or secretive society. ...11/28...
But, that's no different than anybody else, the Elks, or anyone else
that don't publicize their membership roles. Beyond that I have no idea
what sparked those people. But, yes that's true, if the Mason's have gotten
a rather bad reviews from the tax protesters. ...11/52..
...12/03...I was always accused of having the ability to rub my ring
and make judge Benson do whatever I wanted, and God I wish I had that ability.
I would have loved to have had that ability but I did not, I can assure
you. When I was rubbing my ring, Judge Benson never seem to react the
way I wanted him to. ...12/25...
...12/38...Nothing. Quite frankly, one of the few trials I ever tried
where I can honestly say nothing did not go about like I expected. Very
little went bettter than I expected, but nothing went wrong. There were
a couple of little things that I would have done different, and had nothing
really to do with the trial, but the one that I mentioned to Jim and I
made no secret of was--I got talked into making a--doing an interview of
Scott Fall...13/16...
Well, the interview didn't take place till a month or so before the
trial, long after all the facts and the dust had come to settle. Well,
the marshall wanted and thought that he might have some clue, or give them
some clue, even by accident, as to where they were going to find Gordon
Kahl. ...13/36...
I didn't think they would, and I quite frankly thought it was a waste
of time, but they finally prevailed that I should make a deal so that we
could interview him. So, I finally struck a bargain. Well, as it turned
out, that was one of the dunbest things I ever did. I had absolutely no
reason to think that we would get anything useful out of that. ...13/57...
And, we didn't. All we did was that he generated a statement which
I could have written myself. I knew exactly what he was going to say becauseI
knew what he was going to say if he was going to properly defend the case.
So, I could have writen the statement myself I wouldn't have had to interview
him. ...14/11...
And, we got this stupid statment and then I'd agree the conditions
that the statement could be used, etc. And, then, as you see in the transcript,
Irv Nodland and I get into a great big fight at trial about what we had
intended by this thing. And, I kept saying to myself, "What in God's
name did I ever agree to such a stupid thing for?" ...14/33...
And, I would never do that again. I would just say "Hey, you
know, we aren't going to gum up the thing now." I felt bad about it--
because I felt bad getting into a fight with Irv about what it said. And,
we had put this stupid agreement toghether and he thought it meant something
different than I did, and neither one one wer probably right when you read
it over it didn't properly reflect what either one of us intended. ...15/02...
You know, it doesn't speak to well of our draftsman ability for either
one of us. The point ultimately was that it became a point at appeal and
whatnot. And, I would have done that differently. But, it was really something
that happened prior to trial. And, beyond that, there is very little that
I can say that I would have done differently. ...15/26...
Things went probably as carefully as I've planned a trial. And, the
difference was that I had a lot of time to do it. And, I was basically
working full time. And, I was planning closing argument a month before
trial, which is unusual and is certainly a luxury. ...15/45...
Normally, you get to plan your closing argument over supper that night
before you give it.
But, obviouly the word had been passed from the department, they expected
full time effort on it. And, we quite frankly, were willing to give full
time efffort on it from the prosecution team. ...16/06...
So, basically , I cleared my desk, everything that was on it just simply
went to someone else and I didn't do anything but the Kahl case for a couple
of months. And, Dennis didn't quite clear his as much, but almost. And,
we basically got some help from the department. We got our law clerk back
and we did some other things that worked around the shortage that--you know
the department took over a few of our civil cases and whatnot. So, we did
it quite intentionally so that we would not be doing anything at the last
moment. ...16/49...
And, I can truly say that, there was very little that I hadn't thought
of before trial. And, it was just that I did have a lot of time to think
about it and I planned it. It worked out pretty much as I'd planned. ...17/02...
...17/10...Well, that part was not my plan. And, there was frankly
nothing anybody could do about it. What was obvious, an what had happened
obviously with regard to that gun, was Gordon Kahl had thought in his warped
mind somehow or other that was going to effect the trial. ...17/30...
Well, in actuality, it didn't effect anything. All it did really was
prove, or at lest suggest that Ken Muir had in fact probably got off one
round before he died, and that round had hit Yori Kahl right in the gun.
And, if it hadn't been for the gun Yori would have been dead. ...17/51...
It would have gone right through his heart, right where the gun was
supposed to be. The defense had argued that that proved that Yori was fired
on before he fired--that he did not fire first....
18/05... Well, unfortunatle for Yori, that isn't what he said. Yori's
interview said that he had fired first. But, the defense had argued that
"No, and in fact, Ken Muir had fired first." And, that never,
quite frankly, made sense to me. I could never--I never think of any possible
motive why Ken would have fired first unless he had been watching Yori like
a hawk and saw him getting ready to fire and thought "Hey, I better
shoot him or he's going to kill somebody." ...18/37...
I mean, that's conceivable I suppose, but tha'ts the only possible
circumstances that I can imagine that Ken Muir would have fired a round.
He certainly wouldn't have fired a round just because he said "Well,
you know, this thing has gone on long enough. I'm going to break the stalemate."...18/51...
That's not the kind of man Ken Muir was, and certainly I rejected
that as a possibility. But that's in essence what the defense was arguing.
So, along comes the gun. And, it was actually reported a couple of days
before the trial was over. ...19/11...
The gun had been reported and what had happened was one of the defense
lawyers had gotten a call saying there's some evidense out at West Acres,
but the instructions were bad. So, they had passed it on and somebody had
gone out and looked at West Acres and they didn't find it.
...19/29... Well then, one of the maintenance men found the gun. Here
it is in a dumpster, or in one of these little cannisters. And, so now
the gun shows up. Three of the defense lawyers had finished their argument
and one left. So, I told the judge "Hey, we got a problem." ...19/49...
Now, we got this gun. What do we do with the stupid thing? And, nobody
knows what to do with it. This never happened before. Obviously it's a
piece of evidence, that had it been available before, somebody would have
put it into evidence, probably us. But, we obviously don't particularly
want it. ...20/08...
Matter of fact, at this stage, we're saying to ourselves "What
the hell did that have to show up for?" So, basically we're all sitting
there in chambers trying to figure out what to do with this situation,
in which there is no good answer for. And, we start basically making suggestions.
Basically, a consensious is finally reached that the defense wants it
in so here's how we'll do it. ...20/37...
The government will offer it. We'll put our sticker on it and we'll
make an explaination. And, we'll kind of concede foundation for it and
that's the way we did it. And, then the defense will have one closing argument
left and they will get up and argue whatever they want. So, that's the
way we did it....20/51...
But, it didn't really caus us to do much more than add a couple of
lines to our closing argument. It certainly didn't convince me that Ken
Muir had fired the first shot. What it convinced me of was that Ken Muir
had been a pretty good marksman and he's gotten one round and I felt certain
regret that he'd hit the gun, because of all of the people that I would
have just as soon had Ken hit home with a bullet, Yori would be very close
to the top of the list. ...21/33...
But, the point really is that it didn't change my presentation very
much at all. And, certainly it didn't change my opinion of what happened.
...21/51...At that point, you're getting back to the same question.
These men have refused to lay down their weapons. The marshalls basically
were legally entitled to open fire any time they wanted....22/04...
I along with everybody else would have felt not too good about that
if they would have just decided "Well, we've sat here long enough,
and now we're going to start shooting people down." You know, I would
not have felt good about that but it would have been legal. ...22/22...
I do not think that's what happened because I've you know, I've know
Ken a long time. That was not Ken. I can't imagine Ken having fired particularly
a deadly round at somebody unless he felt that it was no alternative to
save somebody's life, perhaps his own. But, he sertainly would not have
squeezed off a round simply to end a confrontation because he was tired
of sitting there. ...22/53...
...23/05...I hope Yori never does. In my judgement, Yori Kahl is an
extremely dangerous person. I think he's a sociopathic person. I think
he's very much like his father, that he's basically filled hatred--hatred
and intolerance--the kind of person that fits into the classical whaite
supremist doctrine, hatred of blacks, hatred of coloreds, hatred of Hispanics,
basically hatred of anybody that isn't white, and protestant, or whatever.
Yeah, I think he is extremely dangerous. I would feel very badly if
he ever gets paroled, because I don't think it's ever safe to let him out
in public. Scott Fall, on the other hand, I think is a completely different
story. ...24/06...
Scott Fall felt very badly about that shooting--no question in my mind
about that. I think he recognized, deep down, that he had picked the wrong
side, and that it had terrible consequences, not only for himself but his
I think he wished with all of his being that it had never happened.
He rationalized his own behavior to the point where he convinced himself
that he wasn't as guilty that he in fact was. His argument had always been,
"That well, I was trying to escape ...24/46..
and I was cornered, and I had no alternative," which just flew
in the face of all of the facts. He didn't see the red lights. He didn't
hear them shout that they were marshalls. He didn't hear that they had
a warrant for Gordon Kahl. He didn't hear what everybody else heard, including
bystanders. And, what that tells me is that he rationalized, obviously.
But in a certain extend, he honestly convinced himself, that he wasn't
as culpable. He deserved to go to prison and deserved the sentence he did.
But, at some point, should he be parolled? I think that would depend on
whether or not he has straightened his thinking out, or whether he hasn't.
I guess I wouldn't feel all that uncomfortable if some person decided
at some point that he's basically not a public threat. Because, I think
Gordon--I think he as opposed to Yori Kahl has a legitimate conscious.
And, I always felt that way. I just never felt otherwise about him. ...25/54...
...25/59...Rather a pathetic person. Probably an abused wife, certainly
mentally abused by her husband. Certainly a woman that, through all of
this activity, that was not affirmably culpable for doing anything. We
never really contended that she was....26/24...
She probably deserved, technically, to be convicted, but we didn't
feel badly when she didn't. I think she conspired to help him get away,
but in the big picture of things, I guess maybe wives are entitled to do
that. And, I think that's about what the jury did was cut her a little
They wouldn't have necessarily had to. But, in all of that, she remains
a very pathetic figure. Had she been married to a normal person, I think
she probably would have been a very nice person. Because, I never saw anything
in the workup of things that indicated that she was anything other than
a very standard, middleclass, farm housewife kind of person. And, had she
not had such a screwy husband, I don't think Joan Kahl would have wound
up at all like she is today....27/28...
...27/49...Well, it's made me do a couple of interviews that I haven't
done for a long time in the Kahl case. It really hasn't effected me much
at all.
It's water under the damn to a certain extent. I don't think the tax
protesters are a serious problem in North Dakota, and have been since that
murder. ...28/12...
They haven't disappeared, but they've certainly been less visable.
They've certainly been less public. They'er, if you talk to the IRS, there's
no shortage of them....28/25...
But, there have been no indications that the white supremists faction
has caught on in North Dakota, or thrived, or doing any better than it ever
did. I think, over all, in a certain respect, once these murders occured
I think it cooled everyone off. I think most of the tax protesters were
horrified. ...28/56...
And, I think a lot of them said to themselves "My God, I didn't
think that's what tax protesting involved." I don;t think most of
them figured that that was part of the price of being a tax protester, was
becoming involved in a shootout with marshalls. So, I think it cooled the
tax protesters down a good deal....29/18...
I think we saw that very
clearly. They had to look very far, very hard at the time to find anybody
to find anybody that would talk for the tax protesters. And, they wind up
getting this ding-a-ling from Wisconsin...29/33..
I mean, you know, three states over. But, that wasn't an accident.
They couldn't find any of these tax protester in North Dakota that would
open their mouth, including some of them that were vocal, Lynn Martin, etc.
Most of them wouldn't say much. They ran a pretty low profile. So, they
winf up with this ding-a-ling Wickstrom. And, he wound up with a bunch
of press in North Dakota. As far as I know, he never came to North Dakota
during any of ;this time.

with interviews of...
Joan Kahl
Yorie Kahl
Lynn Crooks
Toots Mathis
Dennis Fisher
John Noah
Irv Nodland
Bill Kennelly
Prof. Ed Gran
Jack McLamb
Delores Everts
Scarlet Skiftu
Herman Widicker
August Pankow
Victor Seil
Marlys Klimek
Ron Perleberg
Len Martin
Brad Kapp
Robert Holiday
Tom Lee
Ed Fitzpatrick
Gene Nail
Buford Terrell
Marlene Gaysek
Bob Ralston
Darrel Graf
Steve Schnabel
Jack Swan
Loreen Dyck
Mark Stagg
Sheriff Ray Weatherby
Jack Miller
Tracy Adams
Allison Hoffman
Jeffrey F. Jackson
production design
Jim Haddon
Peter Lloyd
film editing
Tracy Adams
Martyn Hone
Jeffrey F. Jackson
original music by
Tracy Adams
sound department
Tracy Adams
Jeffrey F. Jackson
Rex Reddick
produced by
Jeffrey F. Jackson
Angela Kaye
writing by
Jeffrey F. Jackson
directed by
Jeffrey F. Jackson
A timeline of the life of Gordon Kahl, from early childhood interests, to his marriage to Joan Kahl, his decorated military experience, his outspoken tax protest, the Medina shootout, and his unusual death in Arkansas in 1983.
VARIETY /   Indie documaker Jeffrey F. Jackson sticks it to the IRS and the Feds in "Death & Taxes," a hard-hitting reinvestigation of the 1983 Gordon Kahl case, about which questions still linger. Jackson's unfazed, investigative reporting-style approach and inventive handling of familiar material make this a controversial item for fests and progressive webs. Non-U.S. viewers will also get a charge out of its conspiracy theme. read more
CHRONICLES MAGAZINE /   Gordon Kahl was a simple farmer who became famous for not filing income tax returns. Imprisoned and hounded by IRS agents who never did prove he owed any amount of money, Kahl and his son were involved in a shootout with police. The son is still serving a prison sentence, but the father was surrounded and shot in Arkansas by police officers who mutilated and burned his body. read more
GUNS & AMMO /   A new video documentary, Death & Taxes, details a case of government murderously out of control that was briefly mentioned in the October 1994 Guns & Ammo article "The Ugly Truth About Gun Control." Death & Taxes is the story of Gordon Kahl, a North Dakota farmer and decorated World War II veteran, and his apparent death at the hands of federal agents. read more
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Death & Taxes (DVD)
First time on DVD (113 min)
Death & Taxes (VHS)
This is a limited edition collector's VHS in the original unbroken packaging. (113 min)
Death & Taxes Miniseries (DVD)
Set of 6 DVD's comprising the complete uncut footage from the documentary film project. (783 min)
Gordon Kahl: Godfather of the militia movement
Now Available!
This set of 6 DVD's comprises over 13 hours of uncut footage, including a 2+ hour prison interview with Yorie Kahl, and candid interviews with wife Joan Kahl. In this rich stockpile of research, you'll find many more threads than could reasonably be pursued in the final feature.
The Death & Taxes Miniseries DVD Set Includes...
01: Gordon Kahl Meets With Head North Dakota U.S. Marshal Bud Warren (60 min)
02: The Beginning: Gordon Kahl's military experience and views on a variety of subjects (93 min)
03: Gordon's Texas Tax Trial (90 min)
04: Medina Shootout (60 min)
05: Gordon Kahl Was...: A montage of over 25 people describing who Gordon Kahl was in their eyes. (50 min)
06: Mysterious Death In Arkansas (90 min)
07: Media Circus: Chronological portrayal of Gordon Kahl in the media (70 min)
08: Yorie Kahl Prison Interview (150 min)
09: Joan Kahl Uncut Interviews (120 min)
The connection between Gordon Kahl, Timothy McVeigh, and the Oklahoma City Bombing
A little-known fact regarding Death & Taxes is the surprising connection to Timothy McVeigh and the ATF / Oklahoma City Bombing. Here's a clip of Jackson sharing the story during a director's commentary on his film Postal Worker.
Manhunt in the Dakotas
The story of Gordon Kahl so captured the attention of mainstream America that it was turned into a highly-rated made-for-television movie titled In The Line of Duty - Manhunt In The Dakotas.

DEATH & TAXES is the story of Gordon Kahl, a North Dakota farmer who became America's "most-wanted" fugitive. How had a WWII war hero become the target of one of the largest manhunts in FBI history? Gordon Kahl U.S. Marshalls Most Wanted Fugitive
Gordon Kahl's charred and burned remains were reexamined after his exhumation. The island of unburned skin shows that Kahl's body was likely positioned against the floor at the time he was set on fire.
The badly burned remains of Gordon Kahl, with an island of skin that shows he was in a prone position at the time of the fire.
Was Kahl a racist, gun-toting fanatic? Or a victim of an IRS policy of harassing vocal tax protestors into silence to keep the rest of us intimidated? Did Bill Clinton conspire to cover-up the torture and execution of Gordon Kahl in Arkansas? Did federal agents mutilate and burn the body to cover-up the murder of the wrong man?
DEATH & TAXES follows the trail of Gordon Kahl as his body is exhumed for a new autopsy. Building on newsreel clips covering two fiery shootouts and hundreds of interviews -- with IRS agents and federal prosecutors as well as Kahl's family and supporters -- D&T explores the myths and controversies surrounding a man who dared to challenge the federal income tax system. Some revile Kahl as a cop killer. Others revere him as an American patriot. Which was he?