- The Washington Times - Thursday, March 30, 2006

ASSOCIATED PRESS

The jury weighing Zacarias Moussaoui’s role in the deaths from the September 11 attacks, asked for a definition of “weapons of mass destruction” yesterday as it worked to decide whether the al Qaeda conspirator is eligible for the death penalty.

The jurors obtained the definition as deliberations neared four hours. U.S. District Judge Leonie Brinkema told them the term includes airplanes used as missiles. One of the three convictions on which Moussaoui could receive the death penalty is conspiracy to use weapons of mass destruction.

The nine men and three women, who got the case late Wednesday, then returned to deliberate whether Moussaoui is a calculating terrorist responsible for the deaths of nearly 3,000 people in the United States on September 11 or an al Qaeda lackey with delusions of grandeur who had no role in the attacks.

Meanwhile, federal prosecutors in Philadelphia are investigating a government lawyer who nearly derailed Moussaoui’s sentencing trial by coaching witnesses and lying to his defense attorneys.

The criminal investigation of Transportation Security Administration lawyer Carla J. Martin was revealed in the recently unsealed transcript of a closed March 21 hearing in the Moussaoui case.

At that hearing, Judge Brinkema disclosed that she had been “advised by the U.S. attorney’s office that there may very well be a prosecution of her, at least they’re looking at the possibility.”

Rob Spencer, the lead prosecutor in Moussaoui’s case, said the matter was referred to the Eastern District of Pennsylvania, where Miss Martin is a member of the bar. Prosecutors in Alexandria decided to take no part in the investigation.

Rich Manieri, spokesman for the U.S. attorney in Philadelphia, declined to comment.

Moussaoui’s defense lawyers have said Miss Martin should be charged with witness tampering.

Concerned that prosecutors overstated the Federal Aviation Administration’s ability to prevent the September 11 attacks, Miss Martin coached seven federal officials who were to testify about aviation security at Moussaoui’s trial. She urged them to read transcripts of the trial’s first day and warned them to be prepared for tough cross-examination on certain topics. This violated Judge Brinkema’s order barring witnesses from exposure to trial proceedings.

After a hearing — without the jury — into Miss Martin’s misconduct, the judge barred the government from presenting any evidence about aviation security. But after prosecutors protested that was half their case, Judge Brinkema let them present an aviation witness who was untainted by Miss Martin’s misconduct.

If this jury unanimously decides Moussaoui is eligible for the death penalty, it will reconvene to hear more testimony, including from the families of September 11 victims, about whether he deserves to be executed.

If the jury cannot agree on eligibility, defense attorneys say he should automatically get a life sentence. Prosecutors argue a hung jury should result in a mistrial, which would allow them to retry him. The judge has not ruled.

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