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Juror illness halts Moussaoui deliberations

Jury deliberations in the Zacarias Moussaoui sentencing trial were abruptly recessed Thursday when a juror called in sick.
/ Source: The Associated Press

Jury deliberations in the Zacarias Moussaoui sentencing trial were suspended Thursday after a juror called in sick.

Deliberations were to resume on Friday after the juror reported Thursday afternoon that he was feeling better, a court spokesman said.

U.S. District Judge Leonie Brinkema called lawyers for the defense and prosecution into court for a brief hearing Thursday morning to discuss logistics in light of the juror’s illness.

After the hearing concluded and the judge and jurors had left the courtroom, Moussaoui jokingly took credit for the illness as he was led away: “Moussaoui biological warfare,” he said.

The jury must decide whether the Sept. 11 conspirator should be executed or sentenced to life in prison. If jurors cannot reach a unanimous decision, Brinkema automatically will sentence him to life.

The jury of nine men and three women has deliberated for 16 hours, beginning Monday afternoon. They have asked only one question — a request on Tuesday for a dictionary that was denied. Brinkema told jurors that giving them a dictionary would be like placing extraneous evidence in the jury room.

The 42-page verdict form asks jurors to make findings on aggravating factors, such as whether Moussaoui acted with planning and premeditation, and mitigating factors, including whether he suffers from a mental illness and the extent of his role. Jurors are then asked to balance aggravating and mitigating factors in reaching their decision.

The 37-year-old Frenchman is the only person in this country charged in the Sept. 11 attacks.

Earlier this month, this jury found Moussaoui eligible for execution after more than 16 hours of deliberations. Although Moussaoui was in jail on immigration charges on Sept. 11, the jury ruled that lies he told federal agents in the month before Sept. 11 kept them from identifying and stopping some of the hijackers.

Moussaoui pleaded guilty in April 2005.