[Deathpenalty] death penalty news----VA., USA, N.Y.
rhalperi at mail.smu.edu
Wed Mar 22 00:42:22 EST 2006
Moussaoui death penalty trial resumes
The death penalty trial of al-Qaida conspirator and former Oklahoma
resident Zacarias Moussaoui resumes today in federal court in Alexandria,
The jury is to hear cross-examination of the F-B-I agent who arrested
Moussaoui weeks before the 9-11 terror attacks.
The agent has testified that Moussaoui's lies after arrest prevented him
from persuading the bureau to launch an investigation that might have
prevented the attacks.
The trial is resuming after a tumultuous week in which the judge nearly
took the death penalty off the table because a government lawyer
improperly coached witnesses on their testimony.
Moussaoui lived in Norman in early 2001 while attending a flight school.
While he has pleaded guilty to conspiring with al-Qaida, he denies
knowledge of plans for the 9-11 attacks.
(source: Associated Press)
War, death penalty not 'pro-life'
To the Editor:
In response to D.J. Lattieri's letter stating that Catholics are obligated
not to vote for any politician who directly or indirectly supports
abortion, euthanasia or oppression of any kind, I must ask the following.
What about voting for politicians who support the death penalty,
pre-emptive war, a constitutional ban on gay marriage, or a system that
denies health insurance to 46 million citizens? None of these positions
could possibly be conceived as "pro-life."
(source: Letter to the Editor, Daily Record)
Agent Faults FBI on 9/11----The man who caught Zacarias Moussaoui
testifies that higher-ups blocked his efforts to determine whether there
was a larger plot.
The FBI agent who arrested Zacarias Moussaoui weeks before Sept. 11 told a
federal jury Monday that his own superiors were guilty of "criminal
negligence and obstruction" for blocking his attempts to learn whether the
terrorist was part of a larger cell about to hijack planes in the United
During intense cross-examination, Special Agent Harry Samit - a witness
for the prosecution - accused his bosses of acting only to protect their
positions within the FBI.
His testimony appeared to undermine the prosecution's case for the death
penalty. Prosecutors argue that had Moussaoui cooperated by identifying
some of the 19 hijackers, the FBI could have alerted airport security and
kept them off the planes.
Moussaoui is the only person to have been convicted in the United States
on charges stemming from Sept. 11. His sentencing trial began several
weeks ago, but the prosecution's case was nearly gutted when it was
learned that a lawyer for the Transportation Security Administration had
improperly coached key aviation security witnesses. U.S. District Judge
Leonie M. Brinkema decided to allow the government to present a limited
amount of aviation testimony and evidence.
Samit's recollections Monday were the first ground-level account of how
FBI agents in Minneapolis - where Moussaoui was arrested on a visa
violation 3? weeks before the attacks - were appalled that their
Washington supervisors denied their requests for search warrants in the
effort to find out why the Frenchman was taking flying lessons and what
role he might have in a wider plan to attack America.
"They obstructed it," a still-frustrated Samit told the jury, calling his
superiors' actions a calculated management decision "that cost us the
opportunity to stop the attacks."
The government considers Samit's testimony essential to its case. On March
9, the agent told the court about his arrest of Moussaoui, now 37, and his
desperate efforts to win the suspect's cooperation.
Yet much of his testimony Monday might have backfired on the government.
The jury easily could have been left with the impression of an FBI so at
odds with itself that it not only missed critical clues of an impending
terrorist attack, but did not even know how best to coordinate efforts to
Samit was not alone in his contempt for his superiors.
His suspicions were backed up by Coleen Rowley, then an FBI lawyer in
Minneapolis, who in a May 2002 memo to FBI Director Robert S. Mueller III
complained that Washington had blocked efforts to determine what Moussaoui
was really doing. Rowley is not scheduled to testify during the sentencing
Moussaoui pleaded guilty last year to being a part of the Sept. 11
conspiracy. His lawyers maintain that the government had plenty of leads
in the summer of 2001 that a major terrorist action was afoot, even
without Moussaoui's cooperation. They point to a memo by an FBI agent in
Phoenix warning of Middle Eastern men taking flying lessons, and the fact
that then-CIA Director George J. Tenet was apprised of Moussaoui's arrest.
Samit testified Monday that he never knew of the Phoenix memo or of
Tenet's interest in the case. He also said he was kept in the dark about
the Aug. 6, 2001, presidential daily briefing given to Bush during his
vacation in Texas. That briefing, titled "Bin Laden Determined to Strike
in U.S.," noted "patterns of suspicious activity in this country
consistent with preparations for hijackings or other types of attacks."
"I didn't see it," Samit testified. "I did not see anything like that."
Defense lawyer Edward B. MacMahon Jr. also used his cross-examination of
Samit to suggest that law enforcement officials never took such threats
seriously then anyway.
Under MacMahon's daylong questioning, Samit said that officials at the FBI
headquarters in Washington rejected a series of attempts to obtain a
warrant to search Moussaoui's personal belongings.
Had the belongings been opened before Sept. 11, agents would have found
numerous small knives, jumbo-jet pilot manuals, rosters of flight schools
and other clues that might have helped them understand the Sept. 11 plot.
Samit wanted to seek a criminal search warrant, and later one from a
special intelligence court. But officials at the FBI headquarters refused
to let him, because they did not believe he had enough evidence to prove
Moussaoui was anything but a wealthy man who had come to this country to
follow his dream of becoming a pilot.
He said that as Washington kept telling him there was "no urgency and no
threat," his FBI superiors sent him on "wild goose chases."
For a while, Samit said, they did not even believe Moussaoui was the same
person whom French intelligence sources had identified as a Muslim
extremist. Samit said that FBI headquarters wanted him and his fellow
agents to spend days poring through Paris phone books to make sure they
had the right Moussaoui.
Samit said that when he asked permission to place an Arabic-speaking
federal officer as a plant inside Moussaoui's cell to find out what
Moussaoui was up to, Washington said no.
And he said that when he prepared a lengthy memo about Moussaoui for
Federal Aviation Administration officials, Washington deleted key
sections, including a part connecting Moussaoui with Al Qaeda leader Osama
Samit said he was so frustrated and so convinced that attacks were
imminent that he bypassed FBI officials in Washington and met with an FAA
officer he knew in Minneapolis. But he said FAA agents never got back to
him, and never asked to see a pair of small knives, similar to box
cutters, that Samit had found in Moussaoui's pocket and in his car.
Samit further described how he took it upon himself to cable the Secret
Service that the president's safety might be in jeopardy. He recounted in
the cable how Moussaoui had told him he hoped to be able to one day fly a
Boeing 747 from London's Heathrow Airport to New York, and how he also
hoped to visit the White House one day.
Samit said he warned the Secret Service that those desires could spell
disaster. "If he seizes an airplane from Heathrow to New York City," Samit
alerted the Secret Service, "it will have the fuel on board to reach D.C."
Samit said he never heard back from the Secret Service either.
And yet, the agent said, he never officially complained to the FBI
"Street agents don't call headquarters and request that supervisors be
removed from cases," he said. "I didn't agree with them, but they are in
But Samit said his immediate boss in Minneapolis, FBI Special Agent Greg
Jones, did urge Washington to be more receptive.
Samit said he once overheard Jones on the phone with headquarters, telling
FBI superiors that Minneapolis was trying to keep Zacarias Moussaoui "from
flying an airplane into the World Trade Center."
After the Sept. 11 attacks, Samit said he asked Jones about that
conversation, and Jones said he had just made up the scenario as a
hypothetical to try to get Washington moving. "He pulled it out of the
air," Samit said. "It was a lucky guess."
(source: Los Angeles Times)
Report Urges Requiring All Convicts to Give DNA
A State Investigation Commission report released on Monday calls for DNA
samples to be collected from anyone convicted of a crime, bolstering an
effort by Gov. George E. Pataki to expand the state's DNA database.
New York collects DNA from fewer than half of those convicted of felonies
in the state and is one of only seven states that do not compile DNA
records for all felons. The commission wants DNA to be collected from
anyone convicted of a felony or misdemeanor. The report also calls for
eliminating the statute of limitations in cases where DNA evidence is
found, even when a suspect has not been identified, so that such cases can
Both proposals are included in a bill backed by Mr. Pataki. The bill was
passed earlier this year by a 60-to-1 vote in the Republican-controlled
Senate, but has stalled in the Democratic-controlled Assembly over
concerns that it does not include adequate civil liberties protections.
The commission report includes several recommendations intended to address
those concerns, including: defining provisions for expunging DNA records
for people whose convictions are overturned; bolstering penalties for
tampering with DNA evidence or disclosing it without authorization; and
creating an organization to help exonerate people who have been wrongly
Mr. Pataki hailed the study in a statement on Monday.
"DNA is the fingerprint of the 21st century," he wrote, adding that
"experience has shown that criminals convicted of lower- or mid-level
crimes have committed, or will commit, more serious and violent crimes."
The findings of the State Investigation Commission were unanimous,
according to a spokesman. The six-member commission includes appointees
from the governor, the Senate and the Assembly. The commission has the
authority to investigate a range of issues, from corruption to organized
crime to the conduct of public officials and agencies.
"I think some of the concerns that the Assembly had with the other
legislation that had been pending has been addressed in our report," said
Vincent F. Nicolosi, a former Queens assemblyman and an Assembly appointee
to the commission.
"The recommendations are quite extensive in terms of extending the
database, and at the same time, making certain that the laboratories that
are going to perform the tests meet a statewide criteria in how they
perform," Mr. Nicolosi said. He added that the report also recommended "a
forum if there is any misconduct."
Assemblyman Joseph R. Lentol, a Brooklyn Democrat who is chairman of the
Assembly Codes Committee, which has jurisdiction over criminal justice,
said he thought the two chambers would reach a compromise this year.
"Conceptually, we agree," he said. "I think it will be very close to the
bill that the Senate has passed, except it will have some protections to
the public who may have had their DNA collected, even if they were never
convicted or even arrested."
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