9/11 conspirator Moussaoui ejected from court

Tuesday, February 7, 2006

Zacarias Moussaoui

Zacarias Moussaoui, the only member of the U.S. September 11, 2001 attacks to be brought to trial, was removed four times from a Monday court session in Alexandria, Virginia where jury selection is underway for the penalty phase of the trial over his guilty pleas to conspiracy. Moussaoui disrupted the proceeding with verbal outbursts directed at the judge.

Appearing before the U.S. District Judge Leonie M. Brinkema at the Albert V. Bryan United States Courthouse, the citizen of France Moussaoui began calmly by saying with a heavy French accent that, "I want to be heard by this court before the proceedings start."

Judge Brinkema warned Moussaoui that it was not the proper time for him to speak. But Moussaoui, 37, who was unrestrained by shackles and wearing a green jump suit labeled with the word "PRISONER" across the back, said "These lawyers are not my lawyers," referring to the defense team led by federal public defender Gerald Zerkin. "Everybody here know that these people do not represent me."

The unsolicited comments prompted the judge to dismiss him. Moussaoui offered no resistance as he was led away by marshals, but shouted over his shoulder to the judge, "I don't want them to represent. I'm al-Qaida; they are American. They are my enemies." He said of the proceeding, "This trial is a circus."

A jury pool of 18 members, six of whom will serve as alternates, will be selected from the group of 500 potential jurors who appeared Monday. Four court sessions were convened that day to begin sorting through the candidates, and Judge Brinkema allowed Moussaoui to return for each of the three remaining sessions. She instructed potential jurors, "If any of you feel that that outburst or the way he conducted himself might affect the way in which you would go about judging this case, you need to clearly put that statement on the jury questionnaire."

These instructions were repeated to each group of potential jurors after Moussaoui conducted similar outbursts during the remaining sessions, which resulted in his further dismissals.

Moussaoui, in a surprise, pleaded guilty in April to six conspiracy charges of terrorism, leading to yesterday’s start of the jury selection to decide whether he will spend the rest of his life behind bars, or be executed for his involvement in the 9/11 attacks.

Moussaoui was arrested on immigration charges three weeks prior to the attacks. The prosecution contends that he could have prevented the attacks by alerting authorities to the Al-Qaeda plans while he was jailed in Minnesota after his arrest.


United States v. Zacarias Moussaoui