"Can you be part of what descended on this city and say, 'Hey, don't blame me?' That's not right morally or legally," said the prosecutor, his voice taut with anger.
"We respectfully submit that there was one conspiracy, one operation, and that every defendant should be convicted."
Thus did Assistant U.S. Attorney Martin J. Linsky state the government's case in closing arguments to the jury in the trial of 12 Hanafi Muslims on charges of murder, kidnaping, conspiracy and other offenses arising from the takeovers of three Washington buildings last March.
Defense attorneys responded with equal vigor.
Within six hours of the murder of the Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. in 1968, "every major city in this country was burning," said John Mercer, attorney for one of the defendants.
"Was that a conspiracy?" he asked the D.C. Superior Court jury of ten women and two men. "Can anyone prove that conspiracy? It can't be done." he said.
Said Harry T. Alexander, the former Superior Court judge hired as defense attorney to defend Hamaas Abdul Khaalis, alleged leader of the sieges:
"You can't convict these men for stopping a movie without any criminal intent whatsoever."
Assistant U.S. Attorney Mark H. Tuohey III, Linsky's coprosecutor, objected on the ground that this was an "improper" argument. Judge Nicholas S. Nunzio sustained him.
These themes - the government's contention that there was a conspiracy among the 12 Hanafis to take over the three buildings, the defense contention that there was no conspiracy and the further contention that the Hanafis acted without malice - have dominated the trial since it began May 31.
They were dominant yesterday as final arguments began. These arguments are scheduled to continue today and court officials now expect the jury to begin its deliberation by late Wednew expect the jury to begin its deliberations by late Wednearters of B'nai B'rith, the Jewish serivce organization, at 1640 Rhode Island Ave, NW; the Islamic Center at 2551 Massachusetts Ave. NW in the heart of "Embassy Row," and the District Building at 14th and E Streets NW.
In all, 149 hostages were taken. Several persons were injured, but only one was killed. He was Maurice Williams, 24, a reporter for radio station WHUR, who was cut down by a blast of shotgun fire at the District Building.
The government charges that the 12 Hanafis entered a conspiracy to take hostages at the three buildings. The purpose of the hostage-taking, the indictment charges, was to force officials to turn over to the Hanafis five Black Muslims convicted of murdering seven members of Khaalis' family in 1973.
A further purpose of the conspiracy, according to the charges, was to stop the showing in this country of the film "Mohammad, Messenger of God."
It was this charge that sparked Alexander's statement in his closing argument that the defendants merely wanted to stop a movie "without any criminal intent whatsoever."
It is a rule of law that all parties to a conspiracy, which is an agreement to do an illegal act, are equally responsible for anything done to gain the ends of the conspiracy. So all 12 Hanafis are charged with murder in the death of Williams even though only two took direct part in the events at the District Building.
Mercer and other defense attorneys argued yesterday that there was no conspiracy.If they can persuade the jury of this then all the defendants who were at the B'nai B'rith headquarters and the Islamic Center would be freed of the murder charges.
Prosecutor Linsky bore down on what he said was evidence of conspiracy.
"A reign of terror landed on Washington, D.C.," he said. "A holy war? A war, yes. But holy? Ask [the victims].
"Is that kind of conduct acceptable or unacceptable? . . . We don't have an [inside witness], so we don't know when they met [to plan the takeovers]," he said. "But we have corcumstantial evidence. Actions speak louder than words."
Linsky said government witnesses from all three sites testified that their captors had threatened them with death if the police did anything to try to free them.
And a death occurred at the District Building, he aruged. When Mack W. Cantrell, a guard there, opened the outer doorway to the City Council offices where the hostages were being held on the fifth floor, Abdul Muzikir, 22, also known as Marquette Anthony Hall, fired his shotgun, Linsky said.
The blast wounded Cantrell, killed Williams, and also wounded City Council member Marion S. Barry Jr.
Later, said Linsky, when police were firing into the hostage area, Muzikir fired a blast into the black of Robert J. Pierce, 52, a hostage. Pierce is paraylzed from the waist down as a result of injuries.
At the B'nai B'rith building, Linsky said, the Hanafis brought 8,700 rounds of ammunition with them.
"You could have killed every policeman in Washington, every hostage, and still have half your ammunition left," the prosecutor said in his 50-minute statement. He added:
"And they say there was no planning. Let them argue that."
Alexander, Khaalis's attorney, asked other defense attorneys if they would allow him to use some of their time, one hour having been alloted to each for closing argument. Several agreed, and Judge Nunzio said he would permit it.
In fact, Alexander spoke for only 36 minutes, and was interrupted by objections 12 times.
He recalled that Khaalis himself had taken the witness stand and testified that he had "no intent to harm anyone."
Alexander, who is widely known for the extent and variety of his wardrobe, wore a black suit yesterday with a black shirt, a black tie, and a black handkerchief.
"It was not an accident," he told reporters. "Black is dignified. My client was fighting for important rights today, and I was fighting for important rights."