Judge expels Moussaoui

Sept. 11 conspirator barred from jury selection proceedings

February 15, 2006|By RICHARD A. SERRANO | RICHARD A. SERRANO,LOS ANGELES TIMES

ALEXANDRIA, Va. -- A federal judge permanently banned Zacarias Moussaoui yesterday from the remainder of the jury selection proceedings in his penalty trial after Moussaoui, who has admitted that he was a Sept. 11 conspirator, again lashed out at his defense lawyers and the judge and said, "God curse you and America."

U.S. District Judge Leonie M. Brinkema ordered Moussaoui removed from her courtroom to his holding cell in the federal courthouse here, where he will be allowed to monitor the next three weeks of jury selection via a television hookup.

In April, Moussaoui pleaded guilty to capital murder for participating in the Sept. 11 plot. He also claimed that he was being recruited to fly an airplane into the White House at a later date. The question for jurors is whether he should be sentenced to death or life in prison with no parole.

Moussaoui, 37, started the proceedings yesterday much as he did Feb. 6, when about 500 potential jurors were brought into court in groups to begin filling out questionnaires. Each time, he disrupted the process, swore allegiance to al-Qaida and was removed from the court.

The judge said the main reason for yesterday's hearing was to "determine how Mr. Moussaoui plans to behave." He wasted no time showing her.

Speaking in Arabic and English, Moussaoui stood and called the proceedings his "organized death." Moussaoui, a French citizen of Moroccan descent, disavowed any allegiance to France, calling it a "nation of homosexual Crusaders." He said, "I tell you I am a Muslim. I am not a frog."

"Today is my death, today is my death," he repeated, angry that the judge has refused to excuse his defense lawyers and let him represent himself. "If I don't make sure that these people are not going to represent me, I know that I am dead, OK?"

In any event, he said, he does not expect justice. "You own everything," he told the judge and the lawyers seated around him. "You are America - the defense, the judge, the attackers. These people are American. I'm al-Qaida. I'm a sworn enemy of you. Your own commander in chief says he wants to launch a revenge against terrorists."

The judge warned Moussaoui that such outbursts are inappropriate. "Mr. Moussaoui," she said, "you are the biggest enemy of yourself."

Moussaoui's lawyers are expected to call witnesses who would testify that he is schizophrenic. The judge has ruled that Moussaoui comprehends the gravity of his situation.

Legal observers say Moussaoui's outbursts could convince the jury that he is mentally ill and should not be sentenced to die. But his repeated claims of loyalty to al-Qaida and hatred for America could help the government as it seeks the death penalty.

"It could cut either way," said Carl Tobias, a professor at the University of Richmond School of Law in Virginia.

Brinkema could bar Moussaoui from the trial. That has been done in other high-profile cases.

Charles Manson and three female devotees were removed at times from their trial in Los Angeles 35 years ago in the Tate-La Bianca murder case when they began singing, chanting and disparaging the judge. All four were convicted.

Richard A. Serrano writes for the Los Angeles Times.

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