- The Washington Times - Wednesday, April 19, 2006

ASSOCIATED PRESS

Two relatives of September 11 terrorist attack victims testified for the defense yesterday in Zacarias Moussaoui’s death-penalty sentencing trial. One told the jury that her family does not want to “get caught in a whirlpool of sadness and anger.”

Medical sociologist Marilynn Rosenthal, whose son Josh was killed at the World Trade Center in New York, said her family feels strongly that “something good has to come out of what happened” and family members have endowed an annual lecture on September 11 at the University of Michigan, where she teaches.

Robin Theurkauf, whose husband, Tom, died in the South Tower of the World Trade Center, also testified that “the Bible attempts to explain that we are all sinners, all broken people, but all children of God and loved by God.”

Several members of the jury, which heard heart-rending tales during the prosecution case from almost four dozen victims and their relatives, leaned forward in the Alexandria courtroom when they realized relatives were there to testify on behalf of the team trying to save the 37-year-old Frenchman from execution.

Earlier, a second defense specialist to diagnose Moussaoui as a paranoid schizophrenic testified that mental illness probably afflicted Moussaoui throughout his time as an al Qaeda operative.

Psychiatrist Michael First, who edits the diagnostic manual used by the psychiatric profession, described for jurors how Moussaoui’s mental illness apparently affected his ability to function within al Qaeda and his ability to prepare a defense for his death-penalty trial.

Mr. First said Moussaoui’s schizophrenia is manifested through paranoid delusions and disorganized thought and speech.

He said this is consistent with earlier trial testimony that al Qaeda leaders considered Moussaoui paranoid and even “cuckoo,” and was unable to follow basic orders, like minimizing phone contact with others in al Qaeda. September 11 mastermind Khalid Shaikh Mohammed said in a written summary given to jurors that he wanted to dismiss Moussaoui from the planned hijacking operations altogether.

The illness also has affected Moussaoui’s ability to defend himself at trial. Specifically, his delusion, fueled by a dream, that President Bush will free him from prison, has left him indifferent to what the jury thinks of him.

“It has allowed him to act in a way that is self-defeating and harmful,” Mr. First said, referencing the two times that Moussaoui has taken the stand in self-defense and done his case more harm than good.

Moussaoui, the only person charged in this country in the September 11 attacks, pleaded guilty to conspiring in the attacks and faces death or life in prison.

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