Video: Giuliani reacts to Moussaoui sentence

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updated 5/3/2006 7:01:51 PM ET 2006-05-03T23:01:51

A federal jury decided today that al-Qaida conspirator Zacarias Moussaoui must spend life in prison for his role in the 9/11 attacks.

Chris Matthews spoke with Former New York Mayor Rudy Giuliani about his reaction to the verdict.  This is a transcript of their conversation.

CHRIS MATTHEWS, HOST, "HARDBALL": Your thoughts must be going back to 9/11 right now with this, the first verdict really in the case of 9/11. 

RUDY GIULIANI, FMR. NEW YORK MAYOR:   Oh, sure.  Of course they do and I testified in the penalty phase of the trial.  It was much more difficult than I thought it would be reviewing all that, going over it, seeing the films of it. 

Obviously I’m not personally involved in this, but I would have preferred a different verdict but it does show that we have a legal system that we follow, that we respect it.  And it is exactly what is missing in the parts of the world or a lot of the parts of the world that are breeding terrorism. 

So maybe there is something good that come out of this in showing these people that at least showing the ones that have any kind of an open mind that we are a free society, a lawful society, a decent society, that we have respect for people’s rights and that we can have disagreements about whether the death penalty should be imposed on somebody like Moussaoui. 

I think it should have been.  I’ve been a lawyer more of my life than anything else.  And I respect a jury’s verdict.  I sat in front of this jury for about three or four hours.  They look like very careful and very decent people. I am sure they did the best they could. 

MATTHEWS:  Do you think this is going to harken back to the Boston massacre when once again back in the old days the American people chose to honor the restraints of laws rather than passions? 

GIULIANI:  You know, it does say something pretty remarkable about us.  Doesn’t it?  I mean, we probably haven’t had anything that emotionally affected as much as September 11 in a very, very long time.  And I could tell that these jurors were very emotionally affected by it as I was when we went through all of the events.

They heard a lot more testimony after me as compelling or more and yet they were able to come to what they regarded as a rational judgment.  It has to say something about what America is like.  And even though I am disappointed that they didn’t reach the death penalty result, I would have preferred that, I have great respect for what they did here.

MATTHEWS:  Where is the rationality in deciding, as they did unanimously, that this man, Zacarias Moussaoui, was responsible in some way for all the damage done to your city of New York and to the Pentagon on that horrible day of 9/11, but was not responsible for the deaths that occurred day?

GIULIANI:  I don’t know.

MATTHEWS:  How does that make sense? 

GIULIANI:  I don’t know.  I obviously knew my testimony in the case.  I don’t know the rest of the case.  I don’t know how they would come to that conclusion.  I mean, from what I knew of the case and what I read in the paper, it seemed to me he knew about this.  He could have prevented it in a very real sense. 

Had he given up the information that he knew then more than likely all of these people that died, including some that are very close friends of mine, would be alive, and therefore you hold them accountable for it. 

The law is complex.  There are lots of other testimonies.  This was this whole insanity thing that was played out.  I am sure the jurors reached the verdict they thought in conscience was the best one.

It is a complex set of feelings that I have.  I would have preferred to see the death penalty, but I kind of stand in awe of how our legal system works that it can come to a result like this.  It has to say something about us to the rest of the word. 

MATTHEWS:  Are you disappointed? 

GIULIANI:  Yes, I’m disappointed.  I believe that the death penalty was appropriate in this case, and it should have been applied.  But then at the same time, and maybe this is like the contradictory, complex feelings we all have about September 11 and everything that’s come from it, I have tremendous respect for our legal system. 

It should be amazing to the people in the other parts of the world that don’t have something like this: A group of 12 very decent Americans can come to the result that it just wasn’t appropriate to have a death penalty here, and that they’re free to do that, they’re protected in doing that, and even those of us who disagree with them respect them for coming to that conclusion. 

MATTHEWS:  Mr. Mayor, when you think about the crime that was committed against your city and against this country on 9/11/2001 and the people that you saw them jumping out of buildings from 100 floors, rather than face burning alive, they faced dying from a huge fall. 

When you think about that kind of victimhood and you are reacting to it now, and you think about a man who deliberately went out to take flying lessons, not so he could land a plane, but so that he could take a giant airplane and fly it into a building like the World Trade Center, is that the crime you think of, or is it the keeping of the secret between then and now?  What is the crime in your heart that this man committed? 

GIULIANI:  No, in this case, it’s keeping a secret and knowing as I know the legal system and the law enforcement system and how it works, had he disclosed it, then all those little pieces that maybe were out there that should have been put together would have been put together. 

We’ve been struggling for years to figure out should the FBI have known more?  Should this person have known more?  Should that person have known more?  In fact, here was the guy who knew more and didn’t tell anybody.  He didn’t give anybody the connector that would have very likely have prevented all of this and all those wonderful people would be alive, and children that I know who don’t have fathers would have fathers. 

MATTHEWS:  Let’s talk about the courtroom.  I remember Scott Turow once saying in a courtroom a prosecutor has to point the finger; basically, has to look in the eye of the bad guy and say "He did it, he’s the killer."  Did you do that?  Did you look in the eye of Moussaoui?

GIULIANI:  I looked at him twice but the way the courtroom was set up, I was looking at the jury much more than I was looking at him because he was sitting behind me.  And it was a very strange experience. I then saw him when I came in.  I saw him when I testified, but when I was testifying, he was not in my line of sight. 

I would have to look over my shoulder to see him.  It was a very strange experience having him that close to me.  I mean, it was all that I could do to contain my feelings about that as well. 

MATTHEWS:  What do you think about the jury, because you’ve faced many juries as a prosecutor in big cases?  You’ve put bad guys away, and you’ve had to convince 12 juries of men and women of different backgrounds that a man deserves serious punishment.  Did you have a sense when you looked at that jury you were making your case? 

GIULIANI:  My testimony was a couple weeks ago, so a lot of things have happened since then.  And I didn’t get to see the rest of it, but it looked me like they were a very serious group of people.  And I know that the way that the prosecutor, Mr. Novak, presented the testimony, it was extremely powerful, but powerful and understated.  I really admired the way in which he did it.  It seemed to me he did it exactly the right way.  He laid out the facts. 

There was no point in trying to overdo the facts.  They were pretty darn awful.  I mean, it affected me, and it seemed to me that it was affecting the jury.

MATTHEWS:  You will be asked in the days ahead, Mr. Mayor, whether justice was done today.  Was it?

GIULIANI:  Justice was done.  Sure.  I mean, this is the system that we have for justice.  It was a trial.  It seemed like it was a fair trial.  I think the judge was fair.  I think the jurors were fair.  It’s just not the result that I would have come to. 

I think that if you believe in this system, you have to be willing to deal with conclusions that are maybe different than the one you would like as long as it has been carried out in the right way. 

I do think there is a value to this.  I think the greater value would have been if he had been executed, but I think there is value in demonstrating to people what is America is like.  We can have these kind of emotional disagreements, then there’s the law and we’re going to follow it. 

MATTHEWS:  So you don’t think that jury’s inability to reach a unanimous decision for death showed a lack of guts or lack of will? 

GIULIANI:  No.  No.  I would never say that.  I’ve prosecuted many cases.  I’ve been in court many times and I was on the jury myself.  I have great respect for the jury process.  From everything I can tell about these people when I testified in front of them, these were very serious conscientious people.  They reached the result they thought was the right one.  You and I may disagree with it.  I do.

MATTHEWS:   Do some people get on to juries involving capital cases that shouldn’t be there because they not really vetted properly? 

GIULIANI:  I can’t say that happened here though.  Of course that happens.  Either way some people get on because they have an agenda against the death penalty.  Some people get on because they’re going to impose the death penalty no matter what. 

MATTHEWS:  Let me ask you this question.  The man who is now going to face life imprisonment without parole, probably solitary most of time, said on his way out of the court room tonight, this is Zacarias Moussaoui as he was led from the courtroom he said, “America you lost” and clapped his hands.  Your reaction to that.

GIULIANI:  He is wrong as he has probably been wrong for a very long time.  America won tonight.  America demonstrated something that the places that he came from, I doubt they’d be able to demonstrate.  Not a lot of places could demonstrate.  It demonstrated that the legal system that we have, that we would like to see the rest of the world have something like it, it works, it works to be fair, even if we disagree.

MATTHEWS:  It’s an important night to have you on.  Mr. Mayor, thank you very much for joining us. 

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