Families' Hope For Answers At 9/11 Trial Is Unfulfilled
Saturday, March 25, 2006
Eleni Kousoulis carries a glossy photograph of her sister, Danielle, who was killed at the World Trade Center on Sept. 11, 2001. She brought it to the seventh-floor courtroom of U.S. District Court in Alexandria this week when she and her mother, Zoe, made the trip from their home in Merion, Pa.
They had watched some of the death penalty trial of Zacarias Moussaoui on closed-circuit television in the courthouse in Philadelphia -- where only a few people have come each day -- but wanted to see Moussaoui in person and feel what it was like to sit a few feet away from him.
"It was emotional at times, especially when you see him smiling and laughing," Kousoulis said.
Moussaoui has pleaded guilty to conspiring with al-Qaeda in the attacks on the Pentagon and the World Trade Center, and the government is seeking his execution.
The prosecution rested its case Thursday. For the families that have been watching the trial or keeping track of it, the process has been painful, frustrating and, sometimes, unsatisfying. What many of them were looking for, besides justice, was information about the day their loved ones were killed or injured and what the government could have done to prevent the attacks.
"There was one young lady I was talking to in court one day, and she was saying that the government is on trial as much as Moussaoui," said Abraham Scott of Arlington, a regular spectator whose wife, Janis, died in the plane that crashed into the Pentagon. "And in a sense she was right. They are both on trial."
Family members interviewed yesterday said they thought that prosecutors had a difficult case to prove -- that the Sept. 11 attacks could have been prevented had Moussaoui not lied when he was arrested by the FBI in August 2001. Some were angry at Carla J. Martin, a lawyer with the Transportation Security Administration whose coaching of witnesses prompted key testimony from Federal Aviation Administration employees to be disallowed.
"I'm not satisfied," said Rosemary Dillard of Alexandria, whose husband, Eddie, was also on the plane that hit the Pentagon. "I was definitely expecting more information to come out at the trial. It is still not a clear picture. It is very blurred for me."
Others gave the prosecutors credit.
"I think they did the best they could with what they had," said Kousoulis, a lawyer with the federal public defender's office in Delaware.
She said that she welcomed Moussaoui's promise to testify; he could take the stand as early as Monday. "I would love it," she said. "I think he would be stupid to testify, but I would love him to get on the witness stand, love to hear what he had to say to see if he could give us more information than what we have now."
Congress and U.S. District Judge Leonie M. Brinkema designated federal courthouses in Boston, Newark, Philadelphia and New York and on Long Island, N.Y., where families can watch the trial. In addition, a courtroom in Alexandria has been set aside for viewing the broadcast. Only family members with special passes are allowed in, so it is difficult to gauge the turnout.