ALEXANDRIA, Va., (Reuters) – “Shoebomber” Richard Reid had no advanced knowledge of the Sept. 11 attacks, a jury was told on Thursday, casting doubt on claims by Zacarias Moussaoui that Reid was to have joined him in the assault.
Defense lawyers rested their case at Moussaoui’s sentencing trial after reading a statement indicating Reid was not involved in the hijacking plans.
Last month Moussaoui, who faces execution as the only person charged in the United States for the Sept. 11 plot, made a surprise claim that Reid was to have joined him and fly a fifth plane into the White House as part of a coordinated attack with hijacked airliners.
But Moussaoui’s lawyers have said their client lied about his role in al Qaeda and Sept. 11, and have argued he is mentally ill and should not be sentenced to death.
The Reid statement was presented after more family members of victims of Sept. 11 testified of the need to understand why the attacks happened and not to seek retribution.
Alan Yamamoto, one of Moussaoui’s court-appointed lawyers, read the statement, a stipulation agreed to by federal prosecutors seeking Moussaoui’s execution.
“There is no information available to indicate that Richard Reid had pre-knowledge of the 9/11 attacks or was instructed by al Qaeda leadership to conduct an operation in coordination with Moussaoui,” the statement said.
It said Reid had written a will naming Moussaoui as the beneficiary of his belongings. FBI analysts concluded the will showed it was “highly unlikely” Reid was to have been part of the same martyrdom operation as Moussaoui.
Reid failed in an attempt to blow up an American Airlines plane from Paris to Miami in December 2001 after passengers and crew tackled him as he tried to ignite explosives in his shoe. He was sentenced to life imprisonment in January 2003.
Moussaoui testified Reid was to join him on Sept. 11. He later said he was friends with Reid but had never talked to him specifically about the plot.
Moussaoui’s claims last month contradicted his previous statements when he pleaded guilty last year. At that time he said he was not part of the Sept. 11 plot but was meant to be in a second wave of attacks.
Prosecutors called a psychiatrist as a rebuttal witness who disagreed with the defense’s mental health experts, who have diagnosed Moussaoui with schizophrenia.
Raymond Patterson, a forensic psychiatrist, said Moussaoui had a personality disorder but no major mental illness.
After closing arguments on Monday, the jury will begin deliberating.
For the second day in a row, several family members of people who died on Sept. 11 testified for the defense.
Lawyers were not permitted to ask the witnesses what sentence they thought Moussaoui should receive, but many of the family members spoke of the need to overcome vengeance.
Relatives of two people who died on board United Flight 93, which crashed in Pennsylvania after passengers fought back, spoke of how they wanted to remember their loved ones.
“I would like to be able to be a voice for reconciliation in the world,” said Alice Hoglan, whose son Mark Bingham died on Flight 93.
Paula Shapiro, a social worker whose son Eric died in the World Trade Center, said she was working with an organization seeking alternatives to retribution in response to Sept. 11.
Asked how she wanted her son to be remembered, Shapiro said: “As someone like me … who values not only being in this country but also the values of this country.”