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The Collective
Tuesday, March 14, 2006
By Dr. Steven Taylor

Via the NYYT: Judge Calls Halt to Penalty Phase of Terror Trial

An angry federal judge delayed the sentencing trial of Zacarias Moussaoui on Monday and said she was considering ending the prosecution’s bid to have him executed after the disclosure that a government lawyer had improperly coached some witnesses.

Judge Leonie M. Brinkema said she had just learned from prosecutors that a lawyer for the Transportation Security Administration gave portions of last week’s trial proceedings to seven witnesses who have yet to testify. In e-mail messages, the lawyer also seemed to tell some of the witnesses how they should testify to bolster the prosecution’s argument that Mr. Moussaoui bore some responsibility for the deaths caused by the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks.

“In all my years on the bench, I’ve never seen a more egregious violation of the rule about witnesses,” Judge Brinkema said before sending the jury home for two days. She said that the actions of the government lawyer, identified in court papers as Carla J. Martin, would make it “very difficult for this case to go forward.”

The the witness tampering was pretty extensive:

According to the filings, Ms. Martin sent e-mail messages to the seven witnesses, all current or former government aviation officials. In most of her messages, Ms. Martin included the transcript of the opening trial statements along with her criticism that prosecutors had, in her view, “created a credibility gap that the defense can drive a truck through.”

And, of course, doing it via e-mail wasn’t too bright.

The question that immediately comes to my mind is how much of this was stupidity and how much of this was Martin feeling either justified in her actions because of Moussaui was a terrorist, and/or general stress over a need to get a conviction in this case.

I fear that it was the because “he was a terrorist” explanation, but I will grant that I have no evidence to that fact, just concern.

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Filed under: Criminal Justice, War on Terror | |

2 Comments

  1. If that’s the case, then she won’t get what she wanted . . . this probably would have been an open and shut case without the witness tampering (I mean, really, what American jury wouldn’t decide for death, if purely for emotional reasons?).

    Comment by B. Minich, PI — Tuesday, March 14, 2006 @ 9:50 am

  2. It seems that the government is making quite a stretch of a legal theory to get this guy, really any guy as after 4 years they got nothing.

    One bad guy in custody and the government has to run with it. At least he is acting the part out well, shouting anti-American slogans, cursing, looking vile and loathsome.

    The commedy of the whole thing is the legal theory. If only he had told the truth while in custody, and what criminal is ever expected to tell the truth during questioning, then the government would have shed all it’s layers of incompetence and miraculouisly prevented 9/11.

    That’s the myth the government wishes to preserve, the myth of competence. But for just one more little clue they would have busted the whole thing wide open.

    This guy is guilty in a moral sense, but legally he’s getting railroaded by a government to cover up prior mistakes. I just hope the government doesn’t bungle this trial and somehow let him out. They almost did it with the witness tampering fiasco a few weeks ago, so there’s still time to snatch defeat from the jaws of victory.

    Comment by nevins — Wednesday, April 12, 2006 @ 9:36 pm

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