msnbc.com news services
updated 5/3/2006 4:29:00 PM ET 2006-05-03T20:29:00

A verdict has been reached in the Zacarias Moussaoui case. The jury's decision on whether the Sept. 11 conspirator should be put to death or face life in prison is expected to be read Wednesday at 4:30 p.m. ET.

"The jury in U.S. v. Moussaoui has sent a note to the judge indicating they have reached a verdict," the court said in a statement.

Moussaoui has pleaded guilty to six counts of conspiracy in the only case brought in the United States in connection with the deadly hijacked airliner attacks that killed nearly 3,000 people.

Moussaoui will not be formally sentenced until 10 a.m. ET Thursday.

Doubting Moussaoui’s role
The judge presiding over Moussaoui’s sentencing told trial lawyers that she doesn’t believe Moussaoui’s claims on the witness stand that he knew advance details of the Sept. 11 plot.

“I still think that Moussaoui was not accurate in a lot of what he said about how much he knew about what was going to happen with which particular buildings and when,” U.S. District Judge Leonie Brinkema said during a closed hearing on April 21 outside the jury’s presence. Transcripts of the hearing were released Tuesday.

Moussaoui’s bombshell testimony on March 27, in which he took the stand against the advice of his court-appointed lawyers and claimed a direct role in the 9/11 plot after years of denial, revived a moribund prosecution case. Defense attorneys have argued that Moussaoui lied on the stand either to inflate his role in history or antagonize the jury into making him a martyr through execution.

Specifically, Moussaoui claimed that he and would-be shoe bomber Richard Reid were to have flown a fifth plane on 9/11 into the White House, and that he also knew the World Trade Center towers were targeted.

'Evening the playing field'
Brinkema made her comment during a debate over jury instructions. She defended a technical ruling in favor of the defense as a way of “evening the playing field” in response to her concerns about Moussaoui’s testimony.

Even though jurors have no way of knowing about Brinkema’s editorial comment presuming they obey rules against following news coverage, prosecutor David Novak objected to her remark.

“With all due respect, that’s the jury’s decision to decide whether they found him to be credible or not,” Novak told Brinkema.

Fear of harrassment
A separate transcript released Tuesday revealed that defense attorneys tried unsuccessfully to remove a juror from the panel after she expressed fears that the media would harass her after the trial concludes.

The unidentified female juror said that a coworker had deduced she was on the panel even though the jury is anonymous. She also said during the April 17 hearing — before deliberations began — that she fears losing her privacy.

Defense lawyers said she should be replaced because her fears might influence her decision, but Brinkema kept the juror on the panel after she said her concerns would not affect her decision.

Meanwhile, the jury began a seventh day of deliberations Wednesday to decide whether the Sept. 11 conspirator should be sentenced to death or life in prison.

The nine men and three women have so far deliberated more than 35 hours. The jury does not plan to deliberate on Thursday afternoon and Friday so that one juror can attend his parents’ 50th wedding anniversary and another can attend a school ceremony for his daughter.

Moussaoui is the only person charged in this country in the Sept. 11 attacks. The jury previously found Moussaoui eligible for execution after more than 16 hours of deliberations in late March and early April.

Although he was in jail on immigration violations on Sept. 11, the jury ruled that lies he told federal agents the month before the attacks kept them from identifying and stopping some of the hijackers.

Reuters and the Associated Press contributed to this story.

Discuss:

Discussion comments

,

Most active discussions

  1. votes comments
  2. votes comments
  3. votes comments
  4. votes comments