Some Saw Moussaoui As Bit Player, Juror Says
Friday, May 5, 2006
A juror in the death penalty trial of Zacarias Moussaoui said yesterday that some members of the panel decided that the al-Qaeda conspirator should not be executed because he was a bit player in the Sept. 11 attacks and did not kill anyone that day.
"He wasn't necessarily part of the
9/11 operation," said the juror, who spoke about the panel's deliberations on condition of anonymity. "His role in 9/11 was actually minor," said the juror, who voted for a life prison sentence even though he considered Moussaoui "a despicable character" and someone who "mocks and taunts family members whose loved ones died."
Moussaoui did just that one last time yesterday, when he was formally sentenced to life in prison -- a day after the jury rejected the death penalty. In a final display of vitriol, the only person convicted in the United States in the 2001 attacks confronted the families of the victims and the judge he has spent years insulting.
Even after U.S. District Judge Leonie M. Brinkema instructed him not to make a political speech, Moussaoui, 37, leaned forward in his chair, his lips touching a microphone and hissed: "God curse America, and God save Osama bin Laden! You will never get him!"
Brinkema replied with a smile, noting that Moussaoui had yelled "America, you lost! . . . I won!" after the jury delivered its verdict.
"Mr. Moussaoui, if you look around this courtroom today, every person in this room when this proceeding is over will leave this courtroom, and they are free to go anyplace they want," she said before pronouncing the mandatory life sentence. "They can go outside, and they can feel the sun, they can smell fresh air . . . but when you leave this courtroom, you go back into custody. In terms of winners and losers, it is quite clear who won yesterday and who lost yesterday."
"That was my choice!" Moussaoui interrupted.
"It was hardly your choice," Brinkema answered, barely looking up as she said that the verdict -- and the more than four years the government spent bringing the complex case to trial -- represented "a great win for the American people."
The judge concluded by voicing contempt for Moussaoui's oft-expressed desire to have been part of the Sept. 11 operation, in which he said he was supposed to fly a fifth hijacked airplane into the White House.
"You came here to be a martyr and to die in a big bang of glory," Brinkema said. "But to paraphrase the poet T.S. Eliot, you will die with a whimper."
And with that, the judge left the courtroom, and a case that has transfixed Americans through years of delays and twists and turns was finally over. Moussaoui, who pleaded guilty last year to conspiring with al-Qaeda in the Sept. 11 attacks, was expected to be transferred soon from the Alexandria jail to the nation's only federal "super maximum" security prison, in Florence, Colo., where he will live out his days in solitary confinement.