- The Washington Times - Monday, April 24, 2006

ASSOCIATED PRESS

Zacarias Moussaoui’s fate was placed yesterday in the hands of a jury, which will decide whether he is to be executed for his part in the deaths of September 11, 2001.

Jurors opened deliberations at 2:26 p.m., after final pleadings from the prosecution to “put an end to his hatred and venom” by opting for execution and from the defense to spare him the martyr’s death he seeks and send him to prison for life.

The jury decided in 15 hours of deliberations over four days earlier this month that Moussaoui, 37, the only man charged in this country in the September 11 terrorist attacks, was responsible for deaths that day even though he was in jail. That qualified him for the death penalty. The question now before jurors is whether he deserves it.

Moussaoui has relished publicly the results of the attacks, mocked victims and their families, insulted his attorneys and insisted that he wants a martyr’s death. During a recess in closing arguments, Moussaoui said: “Our children will carry on the fight.”

As he left the courtroom, he raised his hands in the air, smiling, and clapped as if he had finished watching a performance.

U.S. District Judge Leonie Brinkema commended both sides on their handling of the difficult case and singled out the burden of the defense attorneys in having to represent someone who rejected them at every turn. “There never has been a defendant as difficult as this one,” she said, “who did everything he could to undermine your efforts.”

After the jury left, defense attorneys tried once more to have the death penalty stricken from the case, based on their inability to put direct questions to witnesses held elsewhere as enemy combatants.

But Judge Brinkema dismissed that motion, agreeing with the prosecution that the issue had been decided by an appeals court.

Prosecutor David Raskin urged the jurors to reject defense arguments that Moussaoui is mentally ill and to brush off any hesitation that they would be giving him what he wants by deciding on execution. “He wants you to think Osama bin Laden will be mad at us,” Mr. Raskin said. “Do you think Osama bin Laden gives a damn about what happens here? … That is a joke.”

Mr. Raskin said: “It is time to put an end to his hatred and venom.”

Defense attorney Gerald Zerkin countered that Moussaoui’s contempt for the victims and the trial “is proof that he wants you to sentence him to death. He is baiting you into it. He came to America to die in jihad, and you are his last chance.”

Mr. Zerkin said the jury instead can “confine him to a miserable existence until he dies and give him not the death of a jihadist … but the long slow death of a common criminal.”

The defense had presented evidence of Moussaoui’s ill-treatment as a child born in France of Moroccan descent, of his father’s and uncle’s violence in his home and of mental illness rampant in his family.

Mr. Raskin said none of that excused his conduct, and he rejected the defense argument that Moussaoui is a schizophrenic.

“Just because we can’t comprehend this kind of evil doesn’t mean he suffers a mental illness,” Mr. Raskin said. “We will never understand evil like this.”

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