ALEXANDRIA, Va., AP -Defense lawyers for Sept. 11 conspirator Zacarias Moussaoui will have to persuade a jury to spare their client’s life without the help of his al-Qaida comrade, would-be shoe bomber Richard Reid.
Testimony resumes Monday in Moussaoui’s death-penalty trial with the defense in flux. Moussaoui took the witness stand in his own defense Thursday for a second time, and again did more harm than good as he reveled in the death and destruction of 9/11 and mocked the testimony of the terror attack victims and their families.
One day after Moussaoui’s testimony, the judge vacated an earlier order compelling Reid to testify in his defense. The jury may instead hear a written statement summarizing some of what he would have said on the witness stand.
Reid is serving a life sentence in the federal government’s maximum-security prison in Florence, Colo., after a failed try to blow up an American Airlines flight in 2001.
Moussaoui, who calls Reid his “buddy” from their days together in al-Qaida training camps in Afghanistan, testified last month at his death-penalty trial that he and Reid were going to hijack a fifth plane on Sept. 11, 2001, and fly it into the White House.
That testimony came after Moussaoui had for years denied any specific role in 9/11.
Moussaoui’s lawyers have suggested he fabricated his story about Reid and their role in the 9/11 plot in an effort to sabotage his own defense and achieve martyrdom through execution. They also say he is trying to inflate his role in history.
Defense lawyers had hoped Reid would disavow any knowledge of Moussaoui’s claim and bolster their argument that Moussaoui is now lying.
The defense may also be revising other parts of its defense. It initially planned to call witnesses who would recount Moussaoui’s difficult childhood in France, his family’s history of mental illness and even some family members of 9/11 victims in an effort to counter the emotional victim-impact testimony put on by prosecutors.
But on Thursday, after Moussaoui’s testimony, the lawyers and U.S. District Judge Leonie Brinkema held a lengthy bench conference. Brinkema sent jurors home for the weekend and advised them that their deliberations could begin early this week, sooner than had been anticipated.
It is likely that the defense would have to cut back some of its planned testimony to conclude its case by then.
Moussaoui is the only person charged in this country in connection with the Sept. 11 attacks. The jury deciding his fate has already declared him eligible for the death penalty by determining that his actions caused at least one death on 9/11.
Even though Moussaoui was in jail in Minnesota at the time of the attacks, the jury ruled that lies he told federal agents a month before the attacks kept authorities from identifying and stopping some of the hijackers.
Now, jurors must decide whether Moussaoui deserves execution or life in prison.