The jury deliberating the guilt or innocence of 12 Hanafi Muslims charged with murder, armed kidnaping, conspiracy and related offenses had a simple request yesterday for Judge Nicholas S. Nunzio.
The jury members wanted the times of certain telephone conversations that were recorded by plice during the takeover of three Washington buildings last March and the seizing of 149 hostages, the events that led the charges against the Hanafis. The times and the conversations both are part of the evidence in the case, which has been in trial in D.C. Superior Court since May 31.
"No times," ruled Nunzio in a brief court hearing outside the jury's presence.
The 10 women and two men who have been considering the evidence since late Wednesday were informed of the decision in writing.
Late yesterday, they requested photographs and other existants that also are part of the evidence and these were supplied. At 5:15 p.m! Judge Nunzio ordered them to cease their work for the day and to resume at 9:30 this morning.
At the hearing on the times of the conversations, Nunzio explained his ruling, and the reasons illustrate the rigidity of the law after a case is placed in the hands of a jury.
Both prosecution and defense wanted the times provided, because both argued before the jury that the time of the conversations, as well as their contents, were important to their respective cases.
The government contends that the times and contents of the eight conversations the prosecution introduced prove that the 12 Hanafis were carrying out a conspiracy when they took over the international headquarterof B'nai B'rith, the Jewish service organization at 1640 Rhode Island Ave. NW, the Islamic Center at 2551 Massachusatts Ave. NW and the District Building at 14th and E Streets NW.
It is under the conspiracy theory that all 12 defendants are charged with murder in the death of Maurice Williams, a 24-year-old radio reporter who was cut down by a shotgun blast at the District Building. Only two Hanafis were at the District Building, but under the law all members of a conspiracy are equally responsible for any act that is done in furtherance of the conspiracy.
The defense contends that there was no conspiracy as far as the District Building is concerned. The lawyers have argued that the two Hanafis there acted on their own, and that their alleged leader. Hamaas Abdul Khaalis, 55, who was at the B'nai B'rith headquarters, later "coopted" their acts into his own plans because the two men are among his followers.
If the jury accepts the argument that there was no conspiracy that included the District Building, then the murder charges fail with respect to the 10 Hanafis who were at the B'nai B'rith building and the Islamic Center.
The time for argument in the trial ended before the jury got the case on Wednesday, and in ruling on the times question yesterday, Judge Nunzio addressed a different set of legal principles.
One of these principles is that the times of the conversations, and the parties who were speaking, came into evidence by way of testimony rather than by way of agreement between the prosecution and defense. It is for the jury to decide the weight and credibility of evidence.
The second principle is that the jury's recollection of testimony is controlling.
Nunzio rejected defense requests that he orders the court reporter to read the relevant testimony to the jury from the record on the ground that this recapitulation would deny the jury the chance to evaluate the manner and demeanor of the witnesses involved.
Taking all these principles together. Nunzio sent a note to the jury saying that "there was testimony as to the times" and that the jury's best recollection would have to guide it as to what these times were.