A jury of 10 women and two men began their deliberation last night on the guilt or innocence of 12 Hanafi Musllims charged with murder armed kidnaping, conspiracy and related offenses in the seiZing of 149 hostages last March at three Washinton buildings.
The question of guilt or innoncence in one of the mostly highly publlcized cases in the city's history became the jurors' to decide at 4:22 p.m when Judge Nicholas S. Nunzo D.C. Superior Court directed them to begin considertin ghe evidence they had heard and seen since the rrial began on May 31.
The jury ended itd deliberations at 5:20 p.m., and will resume its work at 9:30 a.m. today.
The evidence came from more than 100 witnesses. Many had beenhostages and some had beeninjured. They told about the terror and chaos that descended upon their lives as armed men took them captive at the three buildings. Some told about the death of Maurice Williams, a 24-year old radio reporter cut down by a shotgun blast at the District Building at 14th and E. StreetsNW.
Williams was the only person to die in the incidents which lasted from March 9 to March 11. Several others were injured at the District Building and at the internaional headquarters of B'nai B'rith, the Jewish service or vganization at 1640 Rhode Island Ave. NW. and at the islamic Center at 2551 Massachusetts Ave. NW on "Embassy Row." the other two sites that were under siege.
The evidence included moer than300 exhibits ranging from shotguns, pistols, machetes and a crsoo bow to scraps of paper onwhich telephone number had been written.
The prosectioncontended that the evidence showed that the 12 Hanagis entered a conspiracy, which is an agreement to do an illegalact, for the prupose of committing armed kidnapings. those kidnaped, the government alleged were held hostage in an effort t force officials to turn over to the Hanafis five Black Muslims convicted of murdeting in 1973 seven members of the family of Hamass Abdul Khaalis, 55 alleged leader of the takeovers.
A second purpose of the alleged conspiracy was to stop the showing in thes country of the film "Mohammad, Messenger of God" on grounds that it was sacrelegious.
Since all parties to a conspiracy are responsible for any act done to gain the ends og the plan, all 12 defendants are charged with murder in the death of Williams. This is so in this case, even though only two Hanfis are accused of direct involvement in the events at the District Building.
Most defense attorneys all bur conceded the armed kidnaping charges against their clients, so great was the weight of the government's evidence.
But they strenuously fought hte conspiracty theory. They argued that the District Building takeover was the work of two men who acted on their own after having heard of the earlier takovers of the B'nai B'rith headquarters and the Islamic Center.
The point of this argument is that if the defense can persuade the jury that there was no conspiracy then the murder charges against those who were not at the District Building must fail.
Jufge Nunzio so instructed the jury before they began their deliberations.
John Sansing, the court-appointed attorney for Abdul Nuh, 28 also known as Mark E. Gibson, one of those accused of being at the District Building was the lasr to state the defense case before the jury took the case.
The government would have you believe that (Nuh) was part of a conspiracy that linked up the three sites." Sansin g said. "But there is such a thing as parallel situations, spontaneous situations I submit to yoy that's what happened."
The jury room, he said, was no place for emotion. He said Assistant U.S. Attorney Martin J. Linsky, one of the prosecutors, had asked the jury on Monday to send a message that the United States was "no place for terrorism."
"I don't quarrel with that." Sansing said. "But there is also another message amd it is this: In the District of Columbia, unless tht government proves each count beyond a reasonale doubt, then there in no judgement.
"If you render verdicts as I have stated them, the message that Mr. Linsky would have you tell the world will both be heard."
Linsky took up this challenge in his rebutal.
"We're not asking you for a leap of faith." he told the jury. "We're just asking you to followthe evidence Don't let these lawyers blind you to waht happened from March 9 to March 11
"First they hit the B'nai B'rith and the police coverge," he said. "Then they hit the Islamic Center. the city ie reeling now, it's off balance, the police are shook up. Then they hit the District Building Like cockwork."
"Tell the would that terrorism will not be tolerated in America," he said. "The maybe, just maybe, Maurice Williams will not have died in vain.
After Judge Nunzio had sent the jury to lunch, hHarry T! Alexander, the former Superior Court judge hired to defend Khaalis, objected to what he called Linsky's "inflammatory statement." He said Linsky had pointed to the parents of Williams, who were sitting among the spectators, and that this had so prejudiced the jury that a mistrial should be declared.
"Did he point them out to the jury?" Nunzio asked. "Did he point point themout to the jury? I didn't even know the family was here."
Whereupon he denied the motion, said he doubted that Alexander had tolerated arguments from lawyers after he had made rulings in Alexander's days as a judge.
There followed the only interruption from a spectator during the trial. A man who identified himself as Abdul Rahman rose to say that the swine flu program was a form of "genocide" and that he wished to make the City Council aware of this. Deputy U.S. marshals took him from the courtroom. Nunzio ordered that he be kept out of the courthouse, but did not hold him in contempt.
Although the name the man gave was the same as that of one of the defendants, police said he had no connection with the Hanafis. Nunzio sao instructed the jury .
Just before the jury reitred, one of its members was excused. It was understood that shehad several times expressed a reluctance to sit on the case. She was replaced by an alternate.