Moussaoui Case Shows Jury Reluctance On Death Penalty


The terrorism trial of Zacarias Moussaoui followed the pattern of most federal capital cases in which juries are reluctant to impose death sentences, says the New York Times. In the 136 federal capital cases in the last two decades, 122 convictions have been obtained, says the Federal Death Penalty Resource Counsel Project. Juries in those cases imposed death sentences only 49 times. “Obtaining the death penalty is not easy,” said law Prof. Michael Greenberger of the University of Maryland, a terrorism expert who served in the Clinton administration. “If politics had been taken out of this and they weren’t looking for a trophy case, they never would have taken this case to the jury.”

Other men said to be responsible for the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks are in American custody abroad; the verdict in the Moussaoui case may make their criminal prosecution less likely. Three of the jurors said Moussaoui had only limited knowledge of the Sept. 11 plot. A jury that actually holds a defendant’s life in its hands often flinches, said Robert Weisberg, a law professor at Stanford.


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