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Archive for Wednesday, February 15, 2006

Moussaoui banned from jury selection

February 15, 2006

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— Confessed al-Qaida conspirator Zacarias Moussaoui again disrupted his sentencing trial Tuesday and was barred from the courtroom while a jury is selected to decide whether he is put to death or imprisoned for life.

After verbally sparring with Moussaoui for about 15 minutes, U.S. District Judge Leonie Brinkema ordered that he must watch the remainder of jury selection on closed-circuit television from his courthouse cell. That could take until March 6, when opening statements are scheduled.

Brinkema said her main purpose in Tuesday's hearing was to determine "how Mr. Moussaoui plans to behave: ... whether you plan to remain quiet ... or whether you plan to make speeches."

Moussaoui was ejected four times on Feb. 6 when he denounced his court-appointed lawyers in front of four separate groups of prospective jurors. Some 500 northern Virginia residents filled out questionnaires that day about their attitudes toward the case, the death penalty, Muslims and the FBI.

The 37-year-old Frenchman of Moroccan descent pleaded guilty last April to conspiring with al-Qaida to fly aircraft into U.S. buildings but has denied any role in the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks on the World Trade Center and the Pentagon. Moussaoui claims to have been training to fly a 747 jetliner into the White House as part of a subsequent plot.

When Brinkema asked how he would behave, Moussaoui walked to the lectern and pulled out what appeared to be a handwritten speech.

At various points, he called Bush "a crusader" who was "launching a new campaign of revenge against terrorists."

Brinkema repeatedly tried to quiet him.

Brinkema ruled Moussaoui had forfeited his right to be present for jury selection but said she might reconsider if he later agreed to behave.

Despite requests from news media, Brinkema ruled that no copies of exhibits admitted into evidence will be made public during the trial. She said jurors might be contaminated by uncontrolled exposure to the material.

Lawyers begin questioning individual jurors today.

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