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msnbc.com
updated 10/6/2003 7:06:53 AM ET 2003-10-06T11:06:53

At first blush it sounded ominous: A federal judge this week ruling that the government cannot seek the death penalty and can’t even argue Zacarias Moussaoui was involved in planning or executing the September 11 attacks. But it’s the right legal decision.

Apparently, a number of captured leaders have said he wasn’t involved. No one is confirming he was supposed to be the 20th hijacker.

It’s clear evidence he’s a member of al Qaeda. His actions mirrored those of some of the hijackers. When it comes to 9/11 specifically, there just isn’t proof he was involved. And the government won’t give him access to any of the captured 9-11 planners like Abu Zubaydah, Khalid Shaikh Mohammed, or Ramzi Binalshibh to try to prove he wasn’t involved, even though a judge instructed them to do so.

I think the government is doing the right thing by saying we can’t abide by that ruling. Allowing him access to his comrades could interrupt the mind games these terrorists are certainly enduring. I don’t want that. But that doesn’t address Moussaoui’s role or lack of it in 9-11. The judge referred to Moussaoui as a remote or minor participant in al Qaeda’s war against the United States. I hope the government recognized that maybe they overcharged him.

I hope that they don’t try and appeal and they just move forward from here.

There’s nothing to worry about. They should have no problem securing a conspiracy conviction, possibly a life sentence. And if they do turn up evidence that he was specifically involved in 9/11, I am certain that they will drag him to a military tribunal where he could face death again.

Zacarias Moussaoui is an evil, dangerous man, hell bent on destroying our country. I have no problem seeing him die. But as long as he stays in a civilian courtroom, the rules apply and based on the evidence and what access they can and can’t give him, the death penalty should be off the table for now. I say that not for Moussaoui’s benefit, but on behalf of everyone else. I don’t want to change the rules for him.

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