May 3, 2006


Jury Rejects Death Penalty for Moussaoui (William Branigin, Jerry Markon and Timothy Dwyer, May 3, 2006, Washington Post)

A federal jury decided today to spare the life of Zacarias Moussaoui, finding that the avowed al-Qaeda conspirator should be sentenced to life in prison for his role in the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist plot.

Announcing the verdict outside U.S. District Court in Alexandria, Edward Adams, a court spokesman, said the 12 jurors "were not unanimous" in favor of a death sentence for Moussaoui, meaning that he automatically gets a life sentence without possibility of parole. [...]

Adams said the jury's findings on a list of aggravating and mitigating factors varied. For example, in weighing "aggravating factors" advanced by the prosecution, the jurors unanimously agreed that Moussaoui entered the United States for the purpose of gaining knowledge necessary to kill as many Americans as possible and knowingly created a grave risk to one or more persons. But Adams said the jurors "did not unanimously find" that the defendant's actions resulted in the deaths of the nearly 3,000 people who were killed in the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks.

You can see how they'd not be unanimous on that point, but not why it should mitigate.

Posted by Orrin Judd at May 3, 2006 6:15 PM

"Nine of the 12 jurors found that Moussaoui's dysfunctional childhood was a "mitigating factor" favoring a life sentence."

He's depraved on account of he's deprived. Fans of West Side Story saw this coming.

Posted by: Ed Bush at May 3, 2006 6:56 PM

Come on now, it would be difficult for any of us to vote for the death penalty, given that the defendant was guilty only of conspiracy. He pulled no trigger, and his rants about flying and being the missing hijacker are just talk (otherwise, evidence would have been introduced to show direct connections with him to Atta). Had the FBI been able to properly search his computer and interrogate him in August 2001, it is unlikely that anything would have changed quickly enough to prevent 9/11, unless Moussaoui (or his computer) actually named names or flight numbers.

Look at it this way - have we have executed the blind Sheikh? After all, people died at the WTC in Feb. 1993. And he was the conduit.

Had Moussaoui gone before a military tribunal, things might have gone the other way. But life in prison denies him the joy or martyrdom. That seems fair to me.

Posted by: ratbert at May 3, 2006 7:54 PM

ratbert: don't take this wrong, but speak for yourself. And, yes, I would have strung the blind sheikh up--by a pig-leather noose.

Posted by: Mike Morley at May 3, 2006 7:56 PM

Death would have been fair.

Posted by: sharon at May 3, 2006 8:41 PM

Anyone want to take bets on how long before the first Americans are seized overseas by some terrorist group demanding Moussaoui's release?

Posted by: John at May 3, 2006 10:38 PM

Ratbert: Kill the blind guy too.

Hopefully some patriot will take care of Moussaoui in prison. Hopefully after making him his special friend.

Posted by: Bob at May 3, 2006 10:39 PM

Moussaoui has plenty of evil intent, but what has he actually done? You can be arrested for making terroristic threats, but that isn't a capital crime. Absent a direct connection to Atta (or Khalid Sheikh Mohammed), or the appropriate names and flight numbers on his computer, voting for the death penalty is just an ad hoc exercise, a chance to get closer to our baser passions (as Peggy Noonan wrote).

I'll pass on that.

Now the blind sheikh, I'd fry him. He was an active agent, recruiting and inspiring the nutjobs, and sheltering terrorists who came here. Plus, I imagine he had at least a green card. You could charge him with treason - Moussaoui was here on a visa - how can you charge him with treason?

I will say that if the jury was swayed by his 'troubled' upbringing, they copped out for the wrong reason.

Posted by: ratbert at May 4, 2006 8:37 AM

Two words still give me hope that justice will be served: Jeffrey Dahmer.

Posted by: Rick T. at May 4, 2006 9:28 AM

Dahmer didn't get justice.

Posted by: oj at May 4, 2006 9:54 AM

Ratbert: Moussaoui is a member of an evil organization which has killed and will try to kill plenty of Americans. Mere membership in such an organization is enough for me to kill him. If that is a "base passion", so be it.

Posted by: Bob at May 4, 2006 10:20 AM

If our justice system can't or won't punish criminals, so we are forced to hope that their fellow inmates do the dirty job for us, then we are the ones with the problem.

Let's forgo the trials, just dump everyone who's accused of anything all into a big box, and the ones that survive a few years, we'll let go because obviously they were not guilty, or at least not as bad as the ones who didn't make it out alive.

Posted by: Raoul Ortega at May 4, 2006 11:24 AM

I missed the .pdf of his membership card in Al Qaeda being introduced as evidence. He knew Richard Reid (or who Reid was, at least), and he knew the imam from London (Hamza). The rest of the story is just blather, absent any evidence of a direct connection to AQ. I am not aware of all the details of the case - did Moussaoui ever go to Afghanistan? Did he ever meet bin Al-Shibh or Khalid Sheikh Mohammed? Did he ever claim to have met bin Laden? Or was he just a wannabe?

Sure, he's a complete bunghole. But that's not a crime. If his computer gave evidence that he knew the time and place of 9/11, then execute him. But I don't believe that was shown in court. As far as I can tell, Sami Al-Arian did more to further terrorist causes than Moussaoui did, and he got 5 years. The Marin County Taliban got 20 years, and he could be reasonably assumed to be a traitor (albeit a young and foolish one).

Now, I will be first in line to say that enemies like Moussaoui, non-citizens here to wage war on us, do not deserve constitutional rights. But once the trial started, that option was moot. He confessed and pled guilty to the charges. But sentencing him to death is a political statement, not a legal decision.

Posted by: ratbert at May 4, 2006 10:45 PM