Thu, May 04, 2006 - Page 7 News List

US judge believes Moussaoui lied on the witness stand

AP , ALEXANDRIA, VIRGINIA

The judge presiding over Zacarias Moussaoui's sentencing told trial lawyers that she believed Moussaoui lied on the witness stand when he claimed to know advance details of the Sept. 11 plot, according to recently unsealed transcripts.

"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," US District Judge Leonie Brinkema said during a closed hearing on April 21 outside the jury's presence. Transcripts of the hearing were released on 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 Sept. 11 plot after years of denial, revived a moribund prosecution case. Defense attorneys have long 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 Sept. 11 into the White House, and that he also knew the World Trade Center towers were targeted.

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.

A separate transcript released on 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 that she fears losing her privacy negative public reaction to the verdict.

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.

The jury headed into a seventh day of deliberations yesterday without reaching a verdict on whether to sentence Moussaoui 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 this afternoon and tomorrow so that one juror can attend his parents' 50th wedding anniversary and another can attend a school ceremony for his daughter.

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