Accessibility links

Moussaoui Testifies at 9/11 Sentencing Trial


Confessed al-Qaida conspirator Zacarias Moussaoui complained about his defense lawyers Thursday during his sentencing trial in Alexandria, Virginia, just outside Washington.

For the second time in this trial, Moussaoui took the witness stand and once again complained that his defense team has done a bad job of representing his interests.

A federal jury must decide whether Moussaoui should be put to death or sent to prison for life because he failed to tell authorities about the September 11 terrorist plot when he was arrested three weeks before the attacks.

On Thursday, defense lawyer Gerald Zerkin asked Moussaoui if he thought his lawyers were part of a conspiracy to kill him.

Moussaoui replied that he thought his defense attorneys had been engaged in what he called "criminal non-assistance."

Moussaoui also complained that he could not get a fair trial so close to the Pentagon, one of the targets on September 11, 2001. The Pentagon is located only a few kilometers from the courthouse where his trial is being held. And Moussaoui said that if he had control over his own defense, he would have argued for life in prison so that he could be available for a prisoner swap if U.S. troops were captured overseas.

The defense testimony came a day after the prosecution wound up its arguments for Moussaoui's execution by playing cockpit voice recordings from United Airlines Flight 93, one of four airliners hijacked on September 11.

The voice recordings depicted a struggle on board the aircraft between passengers and the hijackers that eventually resulted in the plane crashing into a Pennsylvania field.

Moussaoui is known for his outbursts in the courtroom and his demeanor has clearly angered family members of some of those who died in the 9/11 attacks.

Rosemary Dillard's husband Eddie was aboard the plane that smashed into the Pentagon on September 11. She has been watching Moussaoui in court.

"Witnesses would be up there pouring out their hearts and he is sitting there smirking," she said. "I mean, to have no concept of a what a life is worth, I just can't imagine a person being that way."

Defense lawyers are trying to spare Moussaoui from the death penalty. They argue that Moussaoui is mentally ill and exaggerated his role in the 9/11 plot.

His attorneys also say he was lying last month when he testified that he was supposed to fly a fifth hijacked plane into the White House on September 11.

Legal analyst Jonathan Turley says Moussaoui's conflicting statements could hurt his chances of avoiding the death penalty, if that is what he wants.

"He seems to be living in his own world," he said. "He has an intense egotism to him where he simply believes he is smarter than he is and he has this desire to be in control."

Moussaoui is the only person tried and convicted in connection with the September 11 attacks. The jury in the case has only two options: sentence him to death or to life in prison with no chance for parole.

XS
SM
MD
LG