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Juror Illness Causes Delay In Moussaoui Deliberations

By Jerry Markon and Timothy Dwyer
Washington Post Staff Writers
Friday, April 28, 2006

The death penalty case of Sept. 11, 2001, conspirator Zacarias Moussaoui, which has stretched over more than four years amid numerous delays and complications, was delayed once again yesterday. A juror called in sick.

U.S. District Judge Leonie M. Brinkema told attorneys on both sides that she was sending the jury home. Brinkema initially proposed waiting until Monday to restart deliberations in the al-Qaeda conspirator's sentencing hearing because the juror was on medication.

"I don't want any juror in this serious of a case . . . working if he is not feeling 100 percent. It's obviously a stressful situation," Brinkema told the remaining 11 jurors who filed into the U.S. District courtroom in Alexandria.

After prosecutors and defense attorneys suggested that would be too long a delay, Brinkema sent the jury home for the day. Later yesterday, the juror told the court that he was feeling better, so the jury is supposed to start what could be its third full day of deliberations today.

Moussaoui, who often shoots one-liners -- some vitriolic, some humorous -- to spectators after the jury and judge have left the courtroom, tried to take credit for the juror's undisclosed illness.

"Moussaoui's biological warfare!" he called out, smiling.

Moussaoui, 37, was charged in December 2001 with conspiring with al-Qaeda in the Sept. 11 attacks on the World Trade Center and Pentagon. The trial date was moved back several times because of the vast amount of classified material and the complications caused by Moussaoui's initially being allowed to represent himself.

The case was then put on hold for more than two years during a legal dispute over whether Moussaoui and his attorneys could question top al-Qaeda detainees they said could help clear him. An appeals court said in 2004 that Moussaoui could not interview the captives but that their statements to interrogators could be read to a jury.

He pleaded guilty last year, becoming the only person convicted in this country in the Sept. 11 attacks. The sentencing hearing began March 6.

This month, the 12-member jury found that Moussaoui was eligible for the death penalty because his lies to the FBI when he was arrested in August 2001 allowed the Sept. 11 plot to go forward. Jurors then returned to court for a second phase that featured emotional testimony from several dozen family members of Sept. 11 victims.

After closing arguments Monday, jurors began their deliberations in the jury room on the seventh floor of the courthouse.

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