[JURIST] Presiding US District Judge Leonie Brinkema [official profile] Thursday warned prosecutors in the sentencing trial of Zacarias Moussaoui [JURIST news archive] against making any indication to jury members that Moussaoui was obligated to tell FBI agents about his terrorist connections after his arrest in August 2001 for violating immigration laws, less than a month before the September 11 attacks. Brinkema labeled such action as "shaky legal territory" and questioned the validity of implying that "failure to act is sufficient for the death penalty as a matter of law." Her warnings came as she ruled against a defense motion for a mistrial.
Prosecutors have been trying to argue that at least one death on September 11 could have been prevented if Moussaoui had not lied to federal authorities. Moussaoui's court-appointed defense attorneys have countered that requiring Moussaoui to have actually confessed his links to al-Qaida and his alleged plans to fly a plane into the White House [JURIST report] would infringe on his Fifth Amendment guarantee against self-incrimination. The FBI maintains [AP report] that Moussaoui's misdirections resulted in "wild goose chases" that delayed the apprehension of other al-Qaida agents. Moussaoui aroused suspicion after a Minneapolis flight school informed the FBI of an inexperienced foreign student training to fly a Boeing 747-400. He was arrested on August 16, 2001. He is the first and only prisoner to be charged in the US with involvement in the al-Qaida attacks on the Pentagon, and the World Trade Center. AP has more.