Defense rests in N.Y. bombing trial

February 15, 1994|By New York Times News Service

NEW YORK -- The World Trade Center bombing trial moved abruptly to closing arguments yesterday after three of the four defense lawyers declined to call witnesses.

After just two days of testimony on behalf of one defendant, the three lawyers in essence left it to the jury to decide the case entirely on the strength or weakness of the prosecution's evidence.

The detailed, methodical presentation by the prosecution, which often tested the patience of Judge Kevin T. Duffy, contrasted starkly with the decision of most of the defense lawyers to call no witnesses.

But the judge reminded the jury last week that it was entirely normal for the defense, which has no burden of proof, to present no case, and that, indeed, most defense lawyers in criminal cases do just that.

Instead, the judge said, the defense argued that the government had failed to make a case against the defendants, who therefore should be acquitted.

And so in court yesterday, Austin Campriello, the one lawyer who did put on a defense, for Ahmad M. Ajaj, called his final witnesses. Soon after, one of the four prosecutors presented the first hour of what was expected to be a four- to six-hour summation.

"Now it's time to put the pieces together," said the prosecutor, Henry DePippo. "To put it all together and to show how it proves that all of the defendants are guilty beyond a reasonable doubt."

And, as if to match Mr. Campriello, Mr. DePippo spent most of his time telling the story of Mr. Ajaj, trying to convince the 12 jurors and five alternates that Mr. Ajaj had engaged in a conspiracy to bomb the trade center, even though he was in jail for almost the entire time that the bombing was reportedly being prepared and carried out.

With Mr. Campriello finished, Mr. Duffy gestured to each of the other defense lawyers in turn, asking whether they had any witnesses to present. Each replied that he did not, leading the judge to signal to Mr. DePippo to begin his summation.

Standing in front of the jury with large black-and-white charts on an easel beside him, Mr. DePippo began what amounted to the government's version of the facts in the case, a version that he said would prove that "these defendants before you were the ones who carried out the bombing of the World Trade Center."

Defense attorneys were scheduled to make their final presentations today.

The explosion killed six persons, injured more than 1,000 others and disabled for a month one of the world's best-known landmarks.

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