Witness Coaching May Doom Moussaoui Death Trial


A federal judge may throw out the death penalty case against Sept. 11, 2001, conspirator Zacarias Moussaoui after prosecutors disclosed that a government attorney had violated the court’s rules about discussing witness testimony, the Washington Post reports. U.S. District Judge Leonie M. Brinkema in Alexandria, Va., today called it “the most egregious violation of the court’s rules on witnesses” she had seen “in all the years I’ve been on the bench.”

Her comments came after prosecutors said a Federal Aviation Administration attorney had discussed the testimony of FAA witnesses with them before they took the stand and also arranged for them to read a transcript of the government’s opening statement in the case. Both actions were banned by the judge in a pre-trial order. Defense attorneys immediately urged Brinkema to throw out the death penalty as a possible punishment for Moussaoui and sentence him to life in prison. Moussaoui pleaded guilty last April to conspiring with al Qaeda in the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks. Prosecutor David Novak agreed that the actions of the FAA attorney, whose name was not disclosed, were “horrendously wrong.”

Link: http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/content/article/2006/03/13/AR2006031300506.html

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