Relatives of people killed in the Sept. 11 attacks expressed relief, rage, and disappointment after a judge and jury decided Zacarias Moussaoui should spend the rest of his life in prison rather than be put to death.
On Thursday, a day after a jury rejected the government’s case to have Moussaoui executed, U.S. Judge Leonie Brinkema sent Moussaoui to prison for life.
“Yesterday and today there has been a chapter in the walk I take since 9/11, a chapter that is closed,” Lisa Dolan said outside the courthouse in Alexandria, Va.
Dolan, a mother of two, lost her husband, Capt. Bob Dolan, who was in the Navy command center at the Pentagon. “...Right now, what I’m looking forward to is the next chapter in my life and a clean page to write upon and I take comfort in the fact that my husband’s memory will never be forgotten.”
Her sentiments about Moussaoui’s fate were among the range of emotions offered by 9/11 families, including those who lost loved ones at the World Trade Center.
Monica Gabrielle, whose husband, Richard, died in the trade center, called the sentence a “good decision.”
“He had nothing to do with the events that occurred on 9/11. To offer the death penalty because he lied to the FBI — there’d be a lot of people on death row,” she said.
'My hope is that he is forgotten'
Maureen and Alexander Santora, whose 23-year-old son Christopher was one of 343 New York City firefighters killed when the towers collapsed, saw the decision differently.
Maureen Santora said she felt happy that Moussaoui will be surrounded in jail by people he hates — Americans. “I think life (imprisonment) is worse. He won’t be a martyr now. My hope is that he is forgotten, and that once this trial is over no one will remember his name,” she said.
Other family members — including Alexander Santora — felt the death penalty was necessary. He called Moussaoui “guilty as sin. A bullet in his brain would have been a just reward.”
He said he initially opposed the death penalty, but changed his mind after hearing Moussaoui testify. The defendant said he was supposed to hijack a fifth jetliner on Sept. 11 with would-be shoe bomber Richard Reid and fly it into the White House.
The Santoras watched the jury’s decision by closed-circuit video at the federal courthouse in lower Manhattan.
Some feel ‘let down’
Patricia Reilly said she was angered by the sentence. Her sister, Lorraine Lee, was killed when the planes were flown into the trade center.
“I feel very much let down by this country,” Reilly said. “I guess in this country you can kill 3,000 people and not pay with your life. I believe he’s going to go to jail and start converting other people to his distorted view of Islam.”
Rosemary Dillard, whose husband, Eddie, died in the Pentagon, said the trial sent the world a positive message about the U.S. justice system.
“He’s a bad man, but we have a fair society here,” Dillard said. “It shows the world we’re not going to stand for terrorists to come to our country and to be let loose.”
For Christie Coombs, a sentence of life imprisonment or death would not have changed anything. Her husband, Jeff, died on American Airlines Flight 11, which crashed into the trade center.
“Whatever the verdict was was not going to change my life at all,” Coombs, of Abington, Mass., said. “It wasn’t going to bring my husband back. It wasn’t going to make any of these people that died walk through their doors and make their families happy.”