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Jurors Reject Death Penalty For Moussaoui

Moussaoui's path to prison began when he was arrested on immigration charges more than three weeks before Sept. 11, when his behavior aroused suspicion at a flight school in Minnesota. He refused to cooperate with the FBI, denying that he had terrorist ties and telling agents that he had come to the United States as a tourist.

In the frantic days after the attacks, Moussaoui became the object of rampant speculation about whether he was supposed to be the 20th hijacker, fly a fifth plane or perhaps be ready for some post-Sept. 11 attack.

Prosecutors have never said what Moussaoui's exact role was supposed to be Sept. 11, though they indicated during the trial that Moussaoui was telling the truth when he testified that he was supposed to hijack a fifth plane and crash it into the White House.

The case endured years of delays and complications, caused in part by Moussaoui's desire to represent himself. Brinkema allowed him to but later restored his attorneys after Moussaoui filed several hundred blistering handwritten pleadings from jail in which he insulted his lawyers, prosecutors and the judge.

After two more years of delay caused by a legal battle over whether Moussaoui could interview top al-Qaeda detainees who he said could help clear him, prosecutors finally stood before the jury March 6. They argued that Sept. 11 would have been prevented and nearly 3,000 lives saved if Moussaoui had not lied to cover up the terrorist plot. Defense attorneys insisted that investigators ignored warning signs before the attacks and likewise would have failed to act on Moussaoui's information.

On April 3, after four days of deliberations, jurors found Moussaoui eligible for the death penalty, concluding that his lies allowed the Sept. 11 plot to go forward. Three days later, the sides began a second phase that was gripping in its emotion and historic in its content.

More than 35 family members took the stand, many sobbing as they told heart-wrenching tales of their losses and enduring grief. Prosecutors showed video of the World Trade Center crumbling and people jumping out windows and played, for the first time in public, recordings of 911 calls that depicted the panicked voices of people inside the towers who were about to be overcome by flames and smoke.

Defense lawyers fought back by presenting Sept. 11 family members of their own, who emphasized that they were moving on from their grief. The attorneys also presented evidence of Moussaoui's troubled childhood and the testimony of a psychologist who said Moussaoui has schizophrenia and is delusional.

After the jury foreman -- a Loudoun County teacher who was dressed all in black -- presented the verdict and Brinkema read it to the courtroom, the judge offered praise for how prosecutors and defense lawyers had handled what she called an extremely difficult case.

"The government only wins when justice is done," she said. "Justice is not necessarily what the outcome is but how it was achieved."


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