March 27, 2006

Suicide by Jury

The sad strange evil case of Zacarias Moussaoui took still yet another turn today. Moussaui is the only man being tried in the United States in connection with the 9/11 attacks. The man has already confessed to being member of Al-Quida and being part of a plot to attack the United States. The only real drama left in the case was whether he would get the death penalty or not. In order to kill him, the Federal prosecutor has to tie him directly to the deaths on 9/11, being part of some future attack isn't good enough. Its a real tricky case to make because Moussaoui was already in jail at the time of the 9/11 attacks.

Dahlia Lithwick layed out the real stretch that the Government was trying to make to have Moussaoui be responsible for 9/11:

Last week Robert Weisberg and I tried to highlight the central flaw of the government's conspiracy theory in the Zacarias Moussaoui penalty phase: You can't easily stretch lying into a capital federal criminal conspiracy to murder. The government's contention that Moussaoui actually caused the 9/11 deaths because he lied to federal investigators about details of the plot might satisfy some definition of criminal conspiracy. But it's a hard argument to sustain under the federal conspiracy and death-penalty rules. The causal link between Moussaoui's acts and the actual murders is just too stretched out to work under the federal laws involved in this case.

Then something funny happened at the sentencing trial: The prosecutors switched theories. Somewhere along the way, they stopped arguing that Moussaoui's lies had caused 9/11 and began to argue that his failure to tell the truth was the cause. In other words, the deaths happened not as a result of the false information Moussaoui gave FBI investigators (that he was taking lessons in flying 747s for fun, had worked in marketing research in London for a company called NOP, and had earned the money in his terrorist bank account) but as a result of the true information he withheld.

Up until today, it was widely held, by both the defense and the prosecutor is that Moussaui was not part of the 9/11 plot, was not the "20th hijacker" but was part of some future terror plot. Thus the reach by prosecutors.

But today Moussaoui just jumped into the noose that has been prepared for him. Despite the desperate pleadings of his defense team, he took the stand. He now claims that he was going to fly a plane on 9/11 and that Richard Reid, the"shoe bomber" was to be part of his team. I'm pretty sure Moussaoui just killed himself.

No need for strange legal theories - Moussaoui seems to be perfectly willing to say whatever it takes to die.

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