BREAKING NEWS ~ Moussaoui sentenced to life in prison

[JURIST] The jury in the Moussaoui sentencing trial [JURIST news archive; case docket] has recommended that Zacarias Moussaoui be sentenced to life in prison without the possibility of release. Moussaoui pleaded guilty [JURIST report] last year to six conspiracy charges [indictment] in connection with the Sept. 11 terror attacks [JURIST news archive]. The jury's recommendation is binding on Judge Leonie Brinkema; Moussaoui will be formally sentenced at 10 AM ET Thursday. In the first phase of the sentencing trial, the jury determined that Moussaoui was eligible for the death penalty [JURIST report], and the final verdict [special verdict form, PDF] follows several weeks of testimony on whether Moussaoui should be executed.

Former New York City Mayor Rudolph Giuliani testified [JURIST report] on behalf of the prosecution, and the government also played the United Airlines Flight 93 cockpit audio recording [transcript, PDF; JURIST report] as part of its case. Moussaoui's defense attorneys presented evidence that Moussaoui is mentally ill [JURIST report] and argued that executing him would only allow Moussaoui to serve his ultimate purpose - to join the Sept. 11 hijackers in a glorified afterlife as Islamic martyrs. Jurors deliberated for about 40 hours over seven days. Deliberations were interrupted for the illness of one of the jury members and an admonishment [JURIST report] from Brinkema against doing "outside research," prompted by one of the jurors looking up the potentially-key word "aggravating" in his son's dictionary.

6:03 PM ET - Reacting to the jury's failure to reach a unanimous decision to sentence him to death, Moussaoui clapped and said "America, you lost. ... I won." Meanwhile in a White House statement [text] on the Moussaoui sentence, President Bush vowed to continue the fight against terror, saying "Justice will be served. Evil will not have the final say. This great Nation will prevail." AP has more.

6:34 PM ET - The jury's completed special verdict form [PDF] is now available. On all three counts - conspiracy to commit acts of terrorism transcending national boundaries, conspiracy to destroy aircraft and conspiracy to use weapons of mass destruction - the jury found that Moussaoui "knowingly created a grave risk of death to one or more persons in addition to the victims of the offense" and "committed the offense after substantial planning and premeditation to cause the death of a person or to commit an act of terrorism," but that Moussaoui did not "commit[] the offense in an especially heinous, cruel, or depraved manner in that it involved torture or serious physical abuse to the victim or victims."



 

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