Jurors deciding the fate of Zacarias Moussaoui are being exposed to some
emotionally jarring testimony as the al-Qaida terrorist's death-penalty trial
moves into a second phase.
In this photo released by the Sherburne County
Sheriff's Office, Zacarias Moussaoui is shown in this August 2001 photo.
On Wednesday, prosecutors received the judge's approval to play cockpit voice
recordings from United Flight 93, the plane that crashed into a western
Pennsylvania field on Sept. 11, 2001, after passengers fought back against the
The tape has never been aired publicly, although relatives of the Flight 93
passengers have been permitted to hear it. When family members heard the
30-minute recording in April 2002, the government had grief counselors on hand
and warned the families that graphic details would be audible.
While the recording will be played for the jury and the courtroom gallery, it
is unclear whether it will be publicly released. Most court exhibits are being
made available to the public, but U.S. District Judge Leonie Brinkema is giving
Flight 93 family members until Tuesday to request that the recording be kept
Moussaoui, 37, is the only person charged in this country in connection with
the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks. On Monday, a jury concluded that Moussaoui was
directly responsible for at least one death on that day and is therefore
eligible for execution.
He was in a Minnesota jail on 9/11. Nevertheless, the jury concluded in the
first phase of the trial that Moussaoui could have thwarted or at least
minimized the attacks if he had confessed his al-Qaida membership and his plan
to hijack aircraft when federal agents arrested him in August 2001 after his
efforts to obtain flight training aroused suspicion.
The second phase of the trial, which begins Thursday, will include evidence
on whether Moussaoui deserves to be executed. Prosecutors intend to present
testimony from relatives of 9/11 victims on the personal toll exacted by the
attacks. They have indicated they will have up to 45 victim-impact witnesses and
they plan to identify each of the 2,972 people killed that day by name and
photograph to the jury.
Former New York Mayor Rudy Giuliani was expected to testify, according to
CNN. Giuliani's spokeswoman Sunny Mindel declined to confirm or deny the report.
The defense has indicated it will try to present evidence that Moussaoui, a
Frenchman of Moroccan descent, suffered a difficult childhood, punctuated by
racism. They also will seek to introduce evidence of mental illness. A defense
expert has said Moussaoui most likely suffers from schizophrenia.
The jury will be asked to balance aggravating and mitigating factors in
determining whether to sentence Moussaoui to death or life in prison.