When a Kentucky man yelled at the judge during his death penalty trial for not allowing smokeless tobacco in court. In response, eight federal agents wrestled him to the floor, says the Washington Post. A convicted killer was so unruly in a Florida courtroom that a judge sealed his mouth with duct tape. a member of the Black Panthers was bound and gagged during the “Chicago 7” trial in the Vietnam War era. Judges have long exercised virtually unlimited control over their courtrooms; Virginia federal judge Leonie Brinkema’s ejection of Sept. 11, 2001, conspirator Zacarias Moussaoui from his death penalty trial followed that tradition. The judge booted Moussaoui during the first minute of jury selection Monday– and three more times after that.
Brinkema appears to be on firm legal ground. The U.S. Supreme Court has allowed judges to expel or to bind and gag disruptive defendants. What is less clear is how Moussaoui’s antics will affect the fight for his life over his role in the worst terrorist attack in American history. In the end, lawyers agreed that Moussaoui — who disavowed his attorneys, declared himself a member of Al Qaeda and called his trial a circus — is only hurting his case. Moussaoui, 37, a French citizen, is the only person convicted or charged in the U.S. in connection with the attacks on the World Trade Center and the Pentagon. He pleaded guilty to conspiracy charges. A federal jury is now being chosen to decide whether he should be executed or remain in prison for life.