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Moussaoui Trial Hears Eyewitness Accounts of 9/11 Attacks


There was some emotionally wrenching testimony Thursday in the death penalty trial of Zacarias Moussaoui, the only person tried and convicted in connection with the September 11th, 2001 terrorist attacks. Former New York City Mayor Rudolph Guiliani was among those who appeared at Thursday's session.

Guiliani recounted the horrors of the 9/11 attacks on the World Trade Center in New York.

The former mayor said he still recalls the image of two people jumping from one of the burning towers, holding hands as they plummeted toward the ground.

Guiliani's testimony begins what is expected to be an emotionally exhausting final phase to the death penalty trial of confessed al-Qaida member Zacarias Moussaoui.

Moussaoui pleaded guilty to six conspiracy counts last year and on Monday the jury in the case found him eligible for the death penalty. It is now up to the jury to decide if he should be put to death or sent to prison for life.

Dozens of relatives who lost family members in the September 11th attacks will testify over the next few weeks.

They will attempt to bolster the prosecution's contention that Moussaoui should die because he failed to inform investigators about the 9/11 plot when he was arrested three weeks before the attacks in August of 2001.

Among those supporting the death penalty for Moussaoui is Abraham Scott, whose wife Janice died in the attack on the Pentagon.

"To describe him as well as those who perpetrate the act of terrorism, I describe them as like a dog with rabies, one that cannot be cured and the only cure is to put him or her to their death," he said.

Prosecutors say they will also play audio tapes of emergency calls on September 11 and cockpit voice recordings from United Flight 93, the plane that crashed into a field in Pennsylvania after passengers fought back against the hijackers on board. That tape has never been heard in public but has been played for family members.

One of Moussaoui's defense lawyers, Gerald Zerkin, acknowledged that the emotional testimony from family members of victims will be hard to counter.

But he urged the jury to keep an open mind.

Alice Hoagland lost her son Mark on Flight 93. But she told the CBS Early Show that she opposes the death penalty for Moussaoui.

"I do not want him to become a martyr. Secondly, and perhaps more important, we in America can now demonstrate that we are a nation of mercy as well as a nation of laws and justice," he said.

Legal analyst Jonathan Turley says this final phase of the death penalty trial will be difficult, both for the witnesses and the jury. He spoke on VOA's Talk to America program.

"You have to get into its impact upon victims and that is not just the people who died on 9/11, but the survivors who have to live with this terrible loss and memory," he said.

Turley, a law professor at George Washington University, says he expects Moussaoui's defense attorneys to present evidence questioning the mental competence of their client, who is known for his frequent outbursts in court.

"It is very rare, if not unique, to see someone put to death for the failure to act. The second issue is going to be his sanity. Many people have great skepticism that this man is legally competent," he said.

Last year, Moussaoui told the court he was supposed to be part of a second al-Qaida attack on the United States after September 11. But just last week he reversed himself, saying he was supposed to fly a fifth hijacked plane into the White House on September 11.

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