The botched handling of witnesses in the sentencing trial of Al Qaeda conspirator Zacarias Moussaoui is the latest in a series of missteps that have beset the federal prosecution of terrorism cases, reports the Los Angeles Times. The government has seen juries reject high-profile terrorism charges, judges throw out convictions because of prosecution mistakes and the FBI wrongly accuse an Oregon lawyer of participating in the 2004 Madrid train bombings.
“There have been a lot of flubs,” said George Washington University law professor Stephen A. Saltzburg. “I think most observers would say they were underwhelmed by the prosecutions brought so far.” Several times, prosecutors filed cases that proved to be weak. A computer science student in Idaho was acquitted of charges stemming from a Web site that included information on terrorists; a Florida college professor was acquitted of charges of supporting terrorists by promoting the cause of Palestinian groups. The convictions of two Detroit men arrested for plotting terrorism a week after the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks were overturned because the prosecutor’s key witness had admitted lying to the FBI.