ALEXANDRIA (AFP) – A US jury is this week expected to be asked whether Al-Qaeda conspirator Zacarias Moussaoui should be put to death — days after he gloated over the bloodshed wreaked by September 11.
“The possibility of him not getting the death penalty is very low,” said Jeffrey Frederick, a jury consultant who has watched the Frenchman’s death penalty trial closely.
Judge Leonie Brinkema told the nine men and three women of the jury, plus five alternates on Thursday, that they could expect to get the case earlier, rather than later in the coming week, hours after the defense began its case.
Her instructions came after a harrowing week, in which prosecutors called relatives September 11 victims to parade into the courtroom to share their tales of grief and loss, and more sensational testimony by Moussaoui.
The Al-Qaeda plotter said he had “no remorse” for the September 11 strikes, dismissed grief-stricken survivors as “disgusting” and hoped new attacks would bring America more pain.
“It make my day,” Moussaoui replied when asked at his death penalty trial for his reaction to the heartbreak of families shattered by the loss of loved ones in the 2001 attacks.
Moussaoui also said he dreamed that President George W. Bush would release him before he leaves office in 2009.
Asked by prosecutor Rob Spencer about September 11, Moussaoui replied quickly, “No regret, no remorse.”
“I just wish it had happened on the 12th, 13th, 14th, 15th, 16th and 17th, we can go on and on.”
The jury has already ruled that Moussaoui, already in jail at the time of the attacks, is eligible for execution, accepting prosecution arguments his “lies” let his Al-Qaeda “brothers” go ahead with the attacks.
They must now decide whether the sentence should be carried out.
The defence opened its case on Thursday, and plans to portray Moussaoui as a paranoid schizophrenic and highlight his tough upbringing to support pleas for life imprisonment.
But Moussaoui denied on the stand that he was mentally ill.
“Are you crazy Mr Moussaoui?” Spencer asked him.
“Thank God, I am not,” the defendant answered.
Moussaoui’s statement during his testimony that he did not want to be executed puzzled some observers — since it has been conventional wisdom for weeks that Moussaoui was bent on martyrdom.
Saying he wants to live “might have been an attempt to defuse his lawyer’s martyrdom argument,” Frederick said.
Moussaoui’s lawyers have already argued that the jury should not give Moussaoui the chance to embrace martyrdom and so become a recruiting poster for Al-Qaeda by condemning him to death.
It now appears that the trial will not take yet another sensational twist with testimony from convicted British “shoebomber” Richard Reid.
Moussaoui said in bombshell testimony in the first stage of the trial that Reid was to have been his crew member on September 11, when he had been due to fly a hijacked jetliner into the White House.
The claim conflicted with every other investigation and account of the attacks. The Colorado jail where Reid is being held in isolation told AFP Friday, there were no plans for him to go anywhere.
US media reports meanwhile said lawyers were working on statement which would detail how Reid would have testified had he been brought to the Virginia courtroom where the heavily secured trial is taking place.
Moussaoui was in detention during the September 11, 2001 attacks on New York and Washington.
But the jury agreed in an earlier part of the trial that he was eligible for the death penalty because his lies about the planned attacks contributed to the almost 3,000 deaths that day.
Moussaoui was asked while on the witness stand, if he had enjoyed video of the Pentagon in flames shown during the trial.
“I would have laughed but I knew I would have been kicked out of court,” he replied.
One officer, Lieutenant Colonel John Thurman, described Wednesday terrible scenes moments after a hijacked jet slammed into the Pentagon and how he crawled out of the inferno.
“It was pathetic. I was regretful he didn’t die,” said Moussaoui.
Asked about sobs on the witness stand from navy Lieutenant Nancy McKeown, who lost two subordinates in the Pentagon, he replied: “I think it was disgusting.”
The trial resumes Monday.