Does Emotional Testimony Skew Case Against Moussaoui?


The sentencing trial of Zacarias Moussaoui ongoing in an Alexandria, Va., federal court has featured “raw and gut-wrenching images” of the Sept. 11, 2001, terror attacks, says the Christian Science Monitor. The massive violence of that morning has some analysts questioning whether anyone accused of involvement in the attacks could receive a fair court hearing. Much of the debate revolves around the appropriateness of permitting victims to testify about how the crime has affected their lives. Victim’s rights advocates say such testimony helps jurors gain a broader appreciation of the full impact of an accused criminal’s actions. Opponents say it encourages jurors to rely more on emotion than reason.

Prosecutors selected more than 40 of 800 identified victims and surviving family members to tell their stories to the jury. “It is really important for the jury to hear that because it is the only way they can get a true sense on a human level of what that person’s death means and how much suffering was caused by the perpetrators of this crime,” says Mary Lou Leary, a former prosecutor and director of the National Center for Victims of Crime in Washington, D.C. Defense lawyers face a difficult task after the victims’ emotional testimony. “The jurors are [being] reminded of all the emotions they felt from that day, from watching television or whatever connections they have to 9/11,” says Ohio State law Prof. Joshua Dressler. “I find it difficult to imagine how they will find mercy for someone who had put them and those victims and families through that.”


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