9/11 Lawyer Won't Testify On Her Actions

By Jerry Markon
Washington Post Staff Writer
Saturday, March 25, 2006

A government lawyer whose misconduct nearly derailed the death-penalty trial of Zacarias Moussaoui will not have to testify about her actions at a hearing Monday, court officials said yesterday.

Attorneys for Moussaoui had subpoenaed Carla J. Martin, who brought Moussaoui's sentencing hearing to a halt last week after she violated a court order by sharing testimony with upcoming witnesses. The subpoena had instructed her to report to U.S. District Court in Alexandria.

But Judge Leonie M. Brinkema yesterday quashed the subpoena, according to a brief notation on the court docket, which said a hearing scheduled for 9 a.m. Monday had been canceled. The docket did not offer an explanation. Attorneys for Moussaoui and Martin declined to comment because the matter remains under a court seal.

One reason a judge would quash a subpoena, legal experts said, is if the person ordered to court planned to invoke her Fifth Amendment right against self-incrimination and refuse to testify. Martin declined to testify at a hearing last week. Her attorney, Roscoe C. Howard Jr., has said Martin is assembling a defense but is not yet ready to explain her actions publicly.

Moussaoui, 37, pleaded guilty last year to conspiring with al-Qaeda and is the only person convicted in an American courtroom on charges stemming from the attacks on the World Trade Center and Pentagon. A federal jury in Alexandria will decide whether he receives the death penalty.

Brinkema stopped the sentencing hearing for a week after Martin violated the order forbidding most witnesses from attending or following the trial or reading transcripts. Martin e-mailed trial transcripts to seven witnesses and coached them on their testimony. She had been a liaison between aviation witnesses and the prosecution team.

Brinkema called it "the most egregious violation of the court's rules on witnesses" she had seen "in all the years I've been on the bench."

In response, Brinkema barred the testimony of the witnesses Martin had contacted and all aviation evidence, severely damaging the government's case. But after prosecutors offered a compromise, Brinkema issued a revised order saying they could use new aviation witnesses untainted by Martin's conduct.

The aviation evidence is crucial to the government's central argument for Moussaoui's execution: that if he had not lied to the FBI when he was arrested in August 2001, the Sept. 11 attacks could have been stopped. Armed with Moussaoui's information about the plot, prosecutors say, the Federal Aviation Administration could have ratcheted up security at the nation's airports.

© 2006 The Washington Post Company