New York For the second time in a month, a jury Tuesday rejected the death penalty for one of the men convicted in the bombings of two U.S. embassies in Africa, with several jurors deciding that executing him would only make him a martyr.
Khalfan Khamis Mohamed, 27, will instead be automatically sentenced to life in prison without parole.
In arguing for the death penalty, prosecutors had warned that Mohamed would be a danger even behind bars. They accused him of helping to ambush a jail guard who suffered brain damage when he was stabbed in the eye with a sharpened comb.
Mohamed was convicted last month of mass murder for the Aug. 7, 1998, bombing of the U.S. embassy in his native Tanzania. The attack killed 11 people and set off the U.S. government's biggest terrorism investigation ever.
He told FBI agents that he had no regrets about the attack, allegedly orchestrated by fugitive Saudi financier Osama bin Laden.
Prosecutors portrayed Mohamed as a cold-blooded killer whose skills were honed in a bin Laden training camp.
Seven of the 12 anonymous jurors decided that if Mohamed were executed, "he will be seen as martyr and his death may be exploited by others to justify future terrorist acts," according to the verdict form.
Last month, the same jury spared the life of Mohamed Rashed Daoud Al-'Owhali, 24, of Saudi Arabia, who was convicted at the same trial of killing 213 people in a simultaneous bombing of a U.S. embassy in Kenya.
Twelve Americans died in the two bombings.
Mohamed's attorney, David Ruhnke, said Tuesday's outcome should dispel any notion that an American jury could not be fair in a case involving terrorist attacks on U.S. targets.
"If you're going to seek the death penalty, it can't be against the foot soldiers," Ruhnke said. "The death penalty should be reserved for those who are higher up."
In a statement, U.S. Atty. Mary Jo White said a death sentence would have been "just and appropriate," but prosecutors "respect both the process and the jury's efforts to reach a unanimous verdict."
Prosecutors tried to convince jurors that terrorists would find reasons to attack U.S. targets no matter what happened to Mohamed. They also accused Mohamed of helping his cellmate ambush guard Louis Pepe, who was stabbed during a botched escape attempt.
"A life sentence for Khalfan Mohamed is a death sentence for the next guard who makes a mistake," prosecutor Michael Garcia said.
The majority of jurors did not buy that argument, with nine citing recent jail evaluations that rated Mohamed a "low risk."
The defense contended Mohamed was an unwitting bystander to his cellmate's breakout attempt.
Mohamed, Al-'Owhali and two other men were convicted on May 29. The other two Wadih El-Hage, 40, a Lebanese-born U.S. citizen from Arlington, Tex., and Mohamed Sadeek Odeh, 36, of Jordan were found guilty of conspiracy and face automatic life sentences.
Six defendants are in custody awaiting trial; no trial date has been set. Thirteen others are still at large, including bin Laden.