[Deathpenalty] death penalty news----N.C., CALIF., USA, VA.
rhalperi at mail.smu.edu
Tue Mar 28 10:50:36 EST 2006
Bad interaction: doctors and executions
It may turn out, surprisingly, that the medical profession holds the key
to ending this country's longstanding and dishonorable link to other
nations that continue to shackle and kill some offenders. Capital
punishment is horrifying and ineffective, and it's also beneath the
international stature of the United States. Do we want to be at the same
moral latitude as Libya, Iran and Iraq? Only 2 fully democratic and
developed countries in the world -- the United States and Japan -- still
employ capital punishment.
And executions are distasteful in any number of ways, even to those who
carry them out. A recent New York Times article covered the emotional
damage done to those who participate and the importance of "moral
disengagement" for them. The prison system tries mightily to remove
individual culpability from correction officers who handle the killing,
but it's to no ultimate success.
Here's what that means: each aspect of an execution is handled by
different people. Does the correctional officer who straps down the
condemned man's left arm actually kill him? What about the officer who
shackles his feet for the walk to the gurney? Or the one who puts the
needles in his veins, or the ones who actually depress the syringes?
Which of these men actually kills the prisoner? Exactly -- it's impossible
to say. It also allows these participants in the deaths to rationalize
away their roles: "Hey, I only bought the chemicals; I didn't kill him."
In a cockeyed way, this makes sense in our system, in which "the people"
convict and then carry out the execution. If no one person can be pinned
down, then all of us are the executioners.
Well, I say, that's not acceptable -- I want no killing done in my name.
This is a system that allows the participants, from the correction officer
to the governor, to hide behind the procedure and disclaim the fact of
having executed the prisoner.
If capital punishment is good for our country, then why sanitize it to the
extent it has been? If Gov. Mike Easley really believes in this, let him
hand a loaded firearm to a lone shooter, who would put a bullet into the
back of the neck of a bound, kneeling man. That's the way China has done
it, and it was done in public, too. At least that system has the
appearance of deterring other capital crimes.
And there would be no question of what the prisoner was going through,
unlike the issues recently raised by the use of the lethal injection. With
cruder forms of execution -- gassing, shooting, electrocuting -- there is
little question of the mechanism and cause of death. But lethal injection
has raised some troubling issues, particularly on the question of whether
the condemned is suffering pain during the course of dying. This is where
the physicians might help spell the end of capital punishment.
In North Carolina, state law requires executions to be attended by
doctors, who certify the death. But in doing so, they violate ethical
guidelines of the profession.
In California, an execution was actually called off because the prison
system could not come up with any physicians -- anesthesiologists in this
case -- to monitor the death of Michael Morales.
The problem is whether the amounts and sequence of chemicals render the
prisoner truly senseless, so that he does not suffer severe pain during
the actual process of dying. Autopsies have found that in a number of
cases, the amounts of chemicals in the body were not sufficient to induce
this degree of unconsciousness and the prisoner, while motionless, would
be in great pain.
If the prison system were genuinely concerned with administering a
painless death -- the goal, after all, of lethal injection -- there is a
way to achieve it. A "bispectral index" monitor can be used to assess, by
analyzing an electroencephalogram, the depth of unconsciousness.
Increasingly common in surgery, the bispectral index could guide the
administration of the fatal chemicals to ensure that enough are used.
Of course the correctional system knows these monitors exist -- their use
was approved in 1996 -- but they do not employ them. And why not? I
suspect their use would begin to bridge in a perverse and uncomfortable
way the distance between the operating room and the death chamber and, in
turn, the gap between physician and executioner.
Doctors in California were absolutely right to refuse to participate, and
the same is true for doctors in North Carolina. They must work to increase
-- not shrink -- the gulf between them and capital punishment. With
physicians' refusals to have anything to do with executions, the death
penalty will become harder to carry out.
But more than that, those refusals will call further attention to the
future of capital punishment and encourage all the states, and the United
States, to join the majority of countries worldwide that ban execution as
a means of punishment.
(source: News & Observer - Bob Kochersberger teaches journalism at N.C.
'I'm a Killer,' Jurors Hear----Prosecutors play tape of Wayne Adam Ford,
on trial in the deaths of 4 women across the state.
A year after the limbless torso washed ashore in a slough near Eureka, the
Humboldt County Sheriff's Department's lead investigator still had little
to go on.
The victim's identity remained a mystery, and every lead about the slaying
That is, until November 1998, when Wayne Adam Ford walked into the
Humboldt County sheriff's station with a severed breast in a plastic bag
and confessed to killing that woman and three others, Det. Juan Freeman
testified in San Bernardino Superior Court on Monday.
While Freeman was on the stand, prosecutors played a tape-recording of
Ford's statement to the detective.
"I'm a killer," Ford said. "I figure I'm probably gonna die. Well, which
is what I want, but I'm not gonna kill myself."
Ford, a former truck driver, is on trial for the killings of the 4 women -
all prostitutes or hitchhikers - throughout California in 1997 and 1998.
Prosecutors are seeking the death penalty on 4 counts of 1st-degree
murder, while the defense is trying for lesser charges of 2nd-degree
murder or manslaughter.
Ford, in a dark navy suit, leafed through a transcript of his confession.
Freeman described Ford as soft-spoken and depressed yet cooperative during
the interviews, which spanned 2 days.
"His speaking was flat," Freeman testified. "He would mostly look down at
the ground as he spoke."
Although his voice barely rose above a whisper on the recording, Ford
could be heard sobbing and crying at intervals. On the tape, he said he
used a hunting knife and razor to decapitate the still unidentified
Ford stored the woman's legs in a freezer, buried her head and arms in a
sandbar and hid her thighs under leaves near his campsite, according to
"I had to make her small so she would fit better," Ford said. "I cut her
head off. Her arms, her legs."
Although Ford, 44, talked frankly with investigators on the tape, he said
his mind clouded up whenever he was asked to provide specifics about each
"Sometimes I can concentrate and sometimes I can sit for hours and not,
just, nothing happens," Ford said in the recording.
Freeman asked Ford several times if he wanted an attorney during the
questioning. After pondering the question, Ford declined, saying he wanted
to help authorities.
"I know that I'm risking a lot by doing what I'm doing without an
attorney," Ford said on the recording. "A lot of [the] advantage that I
might have to weasel out of something in some way, shape or form."
The identified victims are Tina Renee Gibbs, 26, of Las Vegas; Lanett
Deyon White, 25, of Fontana; and Patricia Anne Tamez, 29, of Hesperia.
In his opening statement two weeks ago, Deputy Public Defender Joseph D.
Canty told the jury Ford turned himself in because he was contrite and
wanted the killings to end.
The trial continued Monday after a 1-week halt that San Bernardino County
Superior Court Judge Michael Smith attributed to "unexpected
developments." Attorneys said they were barred from speaking on the issue.
(source: Los Angeles Times)
Patriot Act's fast-tracking of death penalty cases draws criticism
Slipped into the thick binding of the newly authorized Patriot Act is a
provision designed to speed death penalty appeals.
The act, signed into law this month, allows states to ask the U.S.
attorney general for so-called fast-track reviews of federal habeas corpus
petitions - the last appeal of a death row inmate.
Previously federal judges made that determination, which is based on
whether a state's court-appointed attorneys in death penalty appeals are
able to handle them.
No state had qualified for the fast-track review, but that could change
under the new law. A fast-track review limits the amount of time a
prisoner has to appeal and the subject matter of the appeal.
"This is very troubling," said Allen Lichtenstein, local attorney for the
American Civil Liberties Union. "It's an attempt by certain elements of
government to eviscerate the very checks and balances that are in place to
guard us against the abuses of government.
"Essentially it's an attack against the Bill of Rights."
Conservative groups, long critical of the length of time it takes for
appeals to wind through the system, have championed fast-track appeals.
"If the provision holds up, it should fix the problem," said Kent
Scheidegger, legal director of the nonprofit California-based Criminal
Justice Legal Foundation, a public interest law firm dedicated to crime
Scheidegger said it's not unheard of for a death penalty case to take a
decade to get through the 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals, based in San
He figures fast-track reviews would cut that down to 3 to 4 years.
But critics say death penalty cases are complex and can't be rushed
through the system.
"Proper review is not particularly burdensome, so there is no real need
for this," Lichtenstein said. "It's like they're saying we don't need
judges, we don't want any review at all."
Michael Pescetta, the federal public defender for Nevada, said the new
system is "unconstitutional because it takes a judicial determination and
turns it over to the attorney general."
"They want to hurry up things at the expense of justice," he said.
Pescetta, whose office handles federal death penalty appeals, said he
thinks the new law will be held up by "an enormous amount of litigation."
Conrad Hafen, chief of the Nevada attorney general's criminal division,
wouldn't speculate on the impact of the new system but indicated that the
state will likely apply to be placed on the fast-track list.
He noted that the law allows an appeal of the U.S. attorney general's
decisions to the appellate court in Washington.
"The D.C. court certainly hasn't been a pro-prosecution court over the
years and they have been more than favorable to defendants and
petitioners," he said.
The appellate court's decision could be appealed to the Supreme Court.
Pescetta, though, said the law takes the appeal out of the hands of the
judges in the 9th Circuit, "who see Nevada cases on a regular basis and
already recognize the errors occurring here are really terrible."
The key in a fast-track authorization is whether a state's requirements
for a court-appointed attorney are stringent enough. The law looks not
only at the lawyer's experience but also at the resources the attorney is
given to conduct an appeal.
Pescetta scoffed at Nevada's requirements, saying, "All someone really
needs is a bar card to be allowed to handle these cases.
"To the extent the courts are going to examine the capital post-conviction
system in Nevada, they are going to find it just doesn't qualify to meet
the statute," he said.
Pescetta said Nevada's guidelines have created a situation in which court
appointed defense attorneys "fail to hire an investigator to look beyond
the record of a case and don't even ask for discovery."
He said by the time his office receives a case - after a prisoner's state
appeal has been exhausted - many issues that should have been raised to
the Nevada Supreme Court haven't been.
If Nevada's system is approved, "our bad situation is only destined to
become worse," Pescetta said.
There are 82 death row inmates in Nevada.
(source: Las Vegas Sun)
EVEN IF HE WAS SUPPOSED TO fly a plane into the White House on the evil
morning of Sept. 11, as he testified in court Monday, Zacarias Moussaoui
should not be executed. Even if he knew enough, sitting in jail on
immigration charges, to have stopped the slaughter at the World Trade
Center, at the Pentagon and in a Pennsylvania field, killing the 20th
hijacker is actually a worse idea than executing most other murderers on
Monday's dramatic testimony marked the first time Moussaoui has spoken
publicly since that world-changing day when 19 hijackers used four planes
to kill nearly 3,000 people in the worst attack on the continental United
States. Hearing his voice was like picking a scab of a wound that will
never heal. And it begs a series of what-ifs: What if the FBI had let its
man in Minneapolis seek search warrants based on the French Muslim's
curious desire for jumbo-jet training and his professed hatred for the
U.S.? What if we could hear all of the witnesses testify, instead of
suffering from their silence because a federal lawyer improperly coached
many of them through their expected cross-examination?
The 19 hijackers are dead. But there is still Moussaoui. He knew. He
helped. Shouldn't he die?
No, he should not. Many committed opponents of the death penalty want to
carve out exceptions for mass murderers or those who attack or betray the
nation writ large, such as Timothy McVeigh. But if you believe, as does
this page, that the death penalty debases our society, the principle
becomes all the more important when it is most tempting to ignore.
But for those who don't share that conviction, there are some more
Would-be suicide jihadists want to die in their struggle against us in the
deluded belief that God will reward their murderous cowardice. Once they
are in our custody, they lose the power to achieve that goal. Capital
punishment gives them the martyrdom they crave, making them symbols of
sacrifice to would-be followers rather than powerless, humiliated
prisoners passing the decades alone and increasingly forgotten in a cell.
More important, if Moussaoui is indeed an important cog in a broad
conspiracy, then he certainly has information that could potentially be
useful both in further Sept. 11 investigations and in our fight against Al
Qaeda, whether now or in 10 years. We may or may not get this information
from him if he lives, although life in prison is a very long time. But we
will certainly not get it from him if he dies.
And killing him would do nothing to stop future attacks or alleviate the
loss of the past. That's the hard thing about the death penalty: The heart
screams for retribution, but it is never enough. It is vengeance devoid of
(source: Editorial, Los Angeles Times)
Talking Himself To Death
Al Qaeda terror conspirator Zacarias Moussaoui proved Monday that he is a
far better suicide witness than suicide pilot. Having failed miserably at
training to fly a plane into the White House in 2001, the capital
defendant was far defter with his words in 2006, offering jurors startling
testimony that makes it more likely - but by no means certain - that he
will soon be sentenced to death.
Moussaoui, the man who likes to shout every time he is led out of court,
was calm and measured and articulate on the witness stand. He answered
almost every question asked of him by both prosecutors and defense
attorneys and on several occasions offered more information, more
incriminating evidence, than he was asked to give. There were no outbursts
and Moussaoui even got some in-court laughs when he sardonically answered
one particularly inane question. He was a helpful witness, in other words,
a courteous one, the kind you dream about having as a defense attorney in
a capital case. Only it was Moussaoui's attorneys, and not prosecutors,
whose life work may have been shattered in the span of a few hours in
That's because Moussaoui gravely undermined a key part of the defense when
he told jurors that he was part of the 9-11 plot and not part of a
subsequent plan to fly planes into buildings. He also linked himself to
the actual hijackers in a way that no other witness had done before and,
for good measure, implicated the so-called "shoe bomber," Richard Reid,
into a "Who's-Who of Terrorists" scheme that would have see the White
House destroyed. All of this is different from what Moussaoui had
previously said about his terror role. And all of it helps prosecutors
establish vital elements in their legal case for the death penalty.
Before Moussaoui took the witness stand and gently promised U.S. District
Judge Leonie M. Brinkema that he would tell the truth - Moussaoui refused
to raise his hand and swear an oath - he had told us in writing that he
was part of a terror plot designed to unfold after 9-11, one in which he
would have flown a plane into a prison in Colorado to try to free a Muslim
cleric held there. But there was no mention of that now superseded story
during his testimony Monday; no explanation as to why his story changed in
such a dramatic (and dramatically incriminating) way. All jurors heard was
Moussaoui, the confessed al Qaeda terrorist, matter-of-factly linking
himself over and over again to the terror attacks that killed nearly 3,000
Prosecutors could not have asked for a better witness at a better time.
Their case crippled by mismanagement, bad luck, and a dearth of good facts
and applicable law, the government entered these final few days of the
first phase of Moussaoui's sentencing trial with no better than a 50-50
shot of attaining their goal. And the only reason the odds were that good
for the feds before Moussaoui testified is the inherent nature of this
case - a creepy terrorist on trial for the worst crime in American history
in the shadow of the Pentagon. The feds had, in other words, nearly
squandered the huge home-field advantage they once possessed in the case.
But then came Moussaoui, who with great irony may have single-handedly
saved the government he has proudly and loudly claimed to hate. If he
truly wants to die as a martyr, and finally meet all those virgins
supposedly waiting for him in Paradise, then surely he took several grand
steps toward that goal when he boasted of his contact with Osama bin Laden
and his foreknowledge of the attacks. He told jurors, for example, that he
purchased a radio while in jail in Minnesota in August 2001 so he could
follow the subsequent attack as it unfolded. And he said that while he
didn't know every detail of the 9-11 plan he knew that the World Trade
Center would again be a target. He talked about knives like the ones used
to cut throats on those planes and of how "gorgeous" the sight of the Twin
Towers falling was.
And it wasn't just Moussaoui's words that linked him to 9-11. Prosecutors
also were able to shrewdly and dramatically make a visual link between the
defendant, the guy the feds have chosen to take the fall for the attacks,
and the actual hijackers. They showed Moussaoui slides of the hijackers,
one by one, and asked him to identify them. Moussaoui did, over and over
again, with varying degrees of specificity. 15 out of 19 when last
counted. And the import of the exercise was clear; he was one of them, and
proudly so, and it must have cheered the feds to see and hear Moussaoui
wax on about how he and one of the hijackers used to "joke" about things.
It's no wonder that Moussaoui's attorneys had begged Judge Brinkema not to
allow their client to testify.
Still, Moussaoui's jaw-dropping performance - lawyers, historians and
journalists will be talking about this day for decades to come - leaves
open 2 fundamental questions which jurors ultimately must resolve.
First, they will have to determine whether Moussaoui is now, finally,
telling the truth (after such a long history of lies) or whether this is
just another attempt to aggrandize his own stature in the antisocial
registry of terrorists. Remember, there are plenty of intelligence
officials, and now-captured al Qaeda leaders, who see Moussaoui as a
terrorist-wannabe, a buffoon, a failure, a cheerleader who now wants
desperately to be executed by America as a so-called martyr for jihad even
though he wasn't clever or competent enough in 2001 to carry out his role
as a terrorist.
The defense now will have to pivot to emphasize this side of Moussaoui.
Fortunately for them, at least, there is some material with which to work.
Jurors now are learning (in the form of written summaries of statements)
what Moussaoui's al Qaeda bosses thought of him - and I can virtually
guarantee you that it will not necessarily synch up with what Moussaoui's
own perceptions of his role in the terror network. So the case may come
down to this-- which terrorists will jurors believe? The one in front of
them in court who says he was part of the plot? Or the terrorist leaders
captured abroad, the true masterminds of 9-11, who say that he was not?
Indeed, before the day was out, jurors had heard the words of Khalid
Sheikh Mohammed, the nuts-and-bolts planner of the horror of 9-11, whose
summarized testimony indicated that Moussaoui was on al Qaedas "back
burner" and designated for another wave of attacks after 9-11.
And jurors will have to decide, too, whether Moussaoui isn't just a bit
too eager to seal his own doom. You can bet that if the case goes much
further defense counsel will tell jurors that recommending a death
sentence for Moussaoui will be a gift to him rather than a punishment.
Normally, that type of pap never flies with a jury. But there is little
about this case that is normal. Don't give this creepy, kooky, slimly
terrorist what he wants, the defense is likely to tell jurors, as it turns
on its own witness the way he has turned on them for years in this case.
And there was an element of farce to Moussaoui's testimony; as if he were
delighted to subvert his own defense and confound his own tormentors.
The other unanswered question is whether jurors will remember after this
day of drama that they still must find beyond a reasonable doubt that
Moussaoui's lies caused death on 9-11. In other words, Moussaoui's latest
confessions, alone, are still not enough by law to make him eligible for
the death penalty. Moussaoui may have wanted to be an actual hijacker, and
today may be trying to talk his way into being considered as one under the
law, but he was in jail on Sept.11, 2001, and nothing he can do or say
Jurors still have to agree that the government would have thwarted the
attack had Moussaoui said back in August 2001 what he is saying now.
Jurors still have to believe that despite its gross negligence before the
attacks that the feds would have taken seriously Moussaoui's story if it
had been presented in time. In other words, the weakest part of the
government's case remains so despite the fact that Moussaoui got yet
another day in federal court and used it to help the very people who are
trying to have him executed.
Only in America would a guy like this get a trial like this. Only in
America would prosecutors have come to court with such weak evidence and
needed the defendant to bail them out. And only in the warped mind of a
terrorist would it be a point of visible pride to voluntarily align
oneself with some of the worst criminals the world has seen in a long,
long time. Moussaoui did that today, mocking his own defense and perhaps
the truth, and now it's up to his judge and jury to absorb the shock of
what he said, and how he said it, so that he gets what the facts and law
say he deserves - whatever that turns out to be.
(source: CBS News - Attorney Andrew Cohen analyzes legal issues for CBS
News and CBSNews.com.)
'Is that torture or is that justice?'----Famous nun, author encourages
debate on death penalty
With the eyes that a convicted murderer stared into as he died in the
electric chair and the voice that counseled him to that point, Sister
Helen Prejean charged an audience at Valparaiso University on Monday night
to rethink the humanity of the death penalty.
Prejean, author of the best-selling book "Dead Man Walking," mixed stories
of personal experiences and passages of Christian scripture as she
recounted her experiences as a spiritual adviser to death row inmates.
"If I had seen the end of the road," she said of her 1st experience with
death row prisoner Patrick Sonnier in 1982, "I couldn't have said yes to
Rather than shy away, Prejean dove into the trenches of the debate. She
spent time with the prisoners, she listened to the inconsolable rage and
incomprehensible loss from the victims' families -- and she came to a
"There's more to the human person than that act," she said.
"Is that torture or is that justice? Match suffering for suffering? How
does this heal us as a society?"
Before Prejean's talk in the vastness of the Chapel of the Resurrection,
she had a more intimate question-and-answer session with students in the
university's CORE program, a two-semester seminar required for new
Her Pulitzer-nominated book is not part of the CORE curriculum, but the
Oscar-winning movie of the same name is.
So understandably, some of the questions revolved around the movie.
Prejean gladly entertained the inquiries.
She spoke admirably of Tim Robbins and Susan Sarandon, the Hollywood duo
that starred in the film, and of their devotion to capturing the
underlying emotions. They involved her in every scene and every line, she
Along the way, Prejean sprinkled a few laugh-lines for her 18- and
"Susan has a question," Prejean recalled Robbins saying during one of
their conversations. "Do all nuns have short hair? Does she have to cut
The talk delighted Mark Mackeben, a freshman from Sycamore, Ill., who has
read the book and seen the movie.
"There are only so many ways to learn things. You see it and you read it,
but then really when you're talking to somebody -- and even hearing them
speak -- you can learn a lot more," he said.
Prejean's presence and her demeanor left freshman Emily Cullar pleasantly
"I expected her to be more formal, not like somebody you almost know," the
19-year-old said. "(She was) more like a great aunt that talks to you real
(source: Northwest Indiana News)
Moussaoui Now Ties Himself to 9/11 Plot
Zacarias Moussaoui, who is facing the death penalty for the Sept. 11,
2001, terrorist attacks, took the witness stand in his own defense Monday,
only to bolster the government's case by unhesitatingly acknowledging the
charges in the indictment against him and adding a few new,
Mr. Moussaoui said he knew in advance of Al Qaeda's plans to fly jetliners
into the World Trade Center and asserted that his role on that day was to
have been to fly another plane into the White House. He said he was to
have been accompanied on the suicidal mission by Richard C. Reid, the
so-called shoe bomber who was convicted in a separate failed effort to
blow up a plane in flight.
Although Mr. Moussaoui had said over the last few years that he was a
member of Al Qaeda and was learning to fly a plane to participate in some
"second wave" of terrorist attacks, until now he had always insisted that
he knew little of the plot for the attacks and vowed to fight the death
penalty to the last of his strength.
But when he began his long-awaited testimony on Monday, he offered a
lengthy description of a far deeper involvement with Al Qaeda and its
plots. Not only was he a member of the terror network, he told the jury,
he also said that he knew most of the Sept. 11 hijackers, admitted that he
lied to investigators about his knowledge of their plot when he was
arrested on immigration violations 3 weeks before the attacks on New York
and the Pentagon, and recounted that he was ecstatic when, behind bars, he
heard the news of the attacks on a radio he had bought for that purpose.
Before the day was over, the jury also had the extraordinary experience of
hearing a reading of testimony taken in a deposition from Khalid Sheikh
Mohammed, who is said to have organized the Sept. 11 attacks and is being
held somewhere in the secret overseas detention system of the Central
That deposition, in which Mr. Mohammed answered questions agreed to by
prosecutors and defense lawyers, seemed to contradict Mr. Moussaoui's
assertion that he was meant to be a pilot on Sept. 11.
Mr. Mohammed portrayed Mr. Moussaoui as a fringe figure who might have
been used in a second wave of attacks if needed.
For more than an hour, Michael Nachmanoff, a public defender, recited Mr.
Mohammed's answers in what resembled an oddly disembodied literary
reading. Mr. Nachmanoff read out testimony that any planning for a second
wave of attacks "was only in the most preliminary stages" and that targets
had not even been selected.
But while that might seem to contradict Mr. Moussaoui's version of events,
the defendant's 1st-person account, painting his own role in bold
brushstrokes, was the day's main event.
When one of Mr. Moussaoui's court-appointed lawyers asked if he was to
have been the so-called 20th hijacker - a member of the team on the plane
that crashed in Pennsylvania, with only 4 hijackers aboard, while the
planes that hit the Pentagon and the World Trade Center had teams of 5 -
he replied, "No, I was not to be a 5th hijacker."
But, he continued, "I was supposed to fly a plane into the White House."
In addition to the other four planes? asked his lawyer, Gerald T. Zerkin.
"That's correct," Mr. Moussaoui answered.
He also asserted, for the first time, that one of his team members was to
have been Mr. Reid, a British convert to Islam who was arrested on Dec.
22, 2001, while trying to detonate an explosive device in his shoe during
a flight from Paris to Miami. Previous investigations have provided no
evidence of Mr. Reid's involvement in any other plots, or any efforts to
enter the United States in the summer of 2001.
When Robert J. Spencer, the chief prosecutor, had his turn, Mr. Moussaoui
agreed with just about every incriminating question.
Mr. Spencer asked if the reason Mr. Moussaoui had lied to the F.B.I. agent
who questioned him in Minneapolis on Aug. 16 was "so you could allow the
operation to go forward."
"That is correct," Mr. Moussaoui replied.
After his arrest, was he looking forward to news of the attacks?
"Yes, you could say that," Mr. Moussaoui said calmly.
He used the phrase "that is correct" dozens of times as the prosecutor led
him through the facts presented in the indictment.
It was correct, Mr. Moussaoui said, that he knew hijackers were in the
United States for some imminent mission that involved flying planes into
Was his reason for hoping to fly a plane into the White House to kill
"That is correct," he said.
Mr. Moussaoui, who has been truculent through proceedings in the past
three years and whose outbursts have drawn rebukes from the judge, spoke
calmly with a heavy French accent, leaning forward in the witness chair,
sometimes casually holding out an empty cup for a marshal to fill with
He seemed testy only when being questioned by his own lawyer, who tried
with little success to elicit replies that would help his case.
Mr. Moussaoui's testimony even undercut one of the pillars of the defense
his lawyers had laid out for him, that he did not know any of the 19
hijackers who died on Sept. 11. As Mr. Spencer showed him their photos,
Mr. Moussaoui said he knew 17 of them from the days he helped run a Qaeda
guesthouse in Afghanistan.
Mr. Moussaoui, a 37-year-old Frenchman of Moroccan heritage, has already
pleaded guilty to 6 conspiracy counts in connection with the Sept. 11
attacks. The sole question before the jury here is whether he should be
executed or spend the rest of his life in jail.
The Justice Department has argued that he should pay with his life because
had he not lied, the Federal Bureau of Investigation and the Federal
Aviation Administration would have moved swiftly to thwart the plot.
The defense may complete its case by Tuesday, and Judge Leonie M. Brinkema
told the jurors they might get to deliberate as early as Wednesday. Under
the federal death penalty law, the jury must first consider whether Mr.
Moussaoui's actions caused some deaths on Sept. 11. If they decide
unanimously that his actions did, they move to another phase to consider
whether the death penalty is appropriate.
Mr. Moussaoui's court-appointed lawyers, with whom he does not speak,
almost certainly did not want him to testify as he did. But under the law
they had no power to prevent him from doing so.
Until Mr. Moussaoui took the stand, the momentum seemed to be with the
defense, which had contended that he was a fringe figure in Al Qaeda whose
leaders held him in low regard.
Moreover, the government's case had been plagued by problems. After the
disclosure that a government transportation lawyer had improperly coached
some aviation security witnesses, the testimony of two other witnesses
about how the F.B.I. handled investigative leads before Sept. 11 raised as
many questions over the government's performance as it did about Mr.
In addition to having served as the government's star witness, Mr.
Moussaoui acknowledged to Mr. Spencer the depth of his hatred of Americans
before a jury that is to decide whether he lives or dies.
He agreed that he rejoiced in the death of nearly 3,000 people on Sept. 11
and that in August 2002, he wrote that he described a tape recording of a
female flight attendant pleading for her life aboard one of the planes as
(source: New York Times)
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