April 24, 2006

US urges jury to sentence Moussaoui to death

By Deborah Charles

ALEXANDRIA, Virginia (Reuters) - Federal prosecutors told
the Zacarias Moussaoui jury on Monday it was time to sentence
the September 11 conspirator to death while defense lawyers
urged jurors not to make him a martyr.

"Let me be blunt, ladies and gentlemen," said assistant
U.S. attorney David Raskin. "There is no place on this good
Earth for Zacarias Moussaoui."

In closing arguments to the jury, Raskin asked them to
return a death sentence for Moussaoui, who said that he would
have participated in the September 11 attacks if he had not
been arrested the previous month on immigration charges.

But one of the court-appointed defense lawyers, Gerald
Zerkin, urged the jury instead to choose a decision that
"requires some courage" and sentence Moussaoui to life in

"He wants you to sentence him to death. He came to America
to die in jihad and you are his last chance," Zerkin said. "He
clearly sees that as his last way to martyrdom."

The jury, which is only deciding the punishment since
Moussaoui has pleaded guilty to six conspiracy counts relating
the September 11 plot, begins deliberations on Monday

Moussaoui, 37, sat in the courtroom staring at the jury for
most of the arguments. But as he left for a morning break,
Moussaoui said, "You'll never get me, America. Never ever."

Prosecutors dismissed defense arguments that Moussaoui was
mentally ill and that he sought martyrdom.

Raskin said Moussaoui was pleased with his role in the plot
and was "elated that al Qaeda murdered 2,972 innocent people on
September 11."

"Enough is enough," Raskin said. "It is time to put an end
to his hatred and venom. It is time to sentence Zacarias
Moussaoui to death."

The 12-person jury must be unanimous in order to sentence
Moussaoui to death. The same jury already decided that
Moussaoui was eligible for the death penalty.


Zerkin said the U.S. government was offering up Moussaoui,
as a "sacrificial lamb."

"The government opts for retribution against the only
person it has brought to trial in relation to 9/11," said
Zerkin, describing Moussaoui as an inept al Qaeda operative.

The jury will consider evidence presented during two weeks
of testimony by survivors and family members of victims of the
deadly hijackings.

Several dozen witnesses, many of them sobbing, told
harrowing tales of their escape from burning buildings or told
how much they missed loved ones who died on September 11, 2001.

Prosecutors showed gruesome pictures of charred bodies and
a video clip of people jumping from the World Trade Center
during their closing arguments.

Zerkin said the government was trying to assuage the
families' pain with Moussaoui.

"If the people who testified ... need the death of Mr.
Moussaoui to recover, it can only be because the government has
held that out for them," he said. "The government has held out
the prospect of Mr. Moussaoui's execution as being the cure."

Moussaoui testified in each of the two phases of the trial.
He contradicted statements made before the trial by saying he
was meant to pilot a fifth plane into the White House as part
of the hijacking plot. In his second round of testimony,
Moussaoui said he had no remorse for the September 11 attacks
and said he wished more Americans could have suffered.