ALEXANDRIA, Virg. -A federal jury found al-Qaida conspirator Zacarias Moussaoui eligible to be executed yesterday, linking him directly to the horrific Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks and concluding that his lies to FBI agents led to at least one death on that day.
A defiant Moussaoui said, “You’ll never get my blood, God curse you all.”
After months of hearings and trial testimony – punctuated by Moussaoui’s occasional outbursts – he now faces a second phase of the sentencing trial to determine if he actually will be put to death.
That phase begins Thursday morning for the only person to face charges in this country in connection with the nation’s worst terrorist assault, the attacks that killed nearly 3,000 people as jetliners crashed into the World Trade Center, the Pentagon and a Pennsylvania field.
Moussaoui sat in his chair and prayed silently as the verdict was read, refusing to join his defense team in standing. His comment came after the hearing.
The jury now will hear testimony on whether the 37-year-old Frenchman, who was in jail at the time of the attacks, should be executed for his role.
Those testifying will include families of 9/11 victims who will describe the human impact of the al-Qaida mission. Court-appointed defense lawyers, whom Moussaoui has tried to reject, will summon experts to suggest he is schizophrenic after an impoverished childhood during which he faced racism in France over his Moroccan ancestry.
The trial’s first phase, which focused strictly on legal arguments, had seemed Moussaoui’s best chance to avoid execution. The jury deciding his fate will now be weighing the emotional impact of nearly 3,000 deaths against Moussaoui’s rough childhood and possible evidence of mental illness.
On the key question before the jurors in phase one, they answered yes that at least one victim died Sept. 11 as a direct result of Moussaoui’s actions.
Had the jury voted against his eligibility for the death penalty, Moussaoui would have been sentenced to life in prison.
Rosemary Dillard, whose husband Eddie died in the attacks, said she felt a sense of vindication from the verdict.
“This man has no soul, has no conscience,” she said of Moussaoui. “What else could we ask for but this?”
Abraham Scott, who lost his wife Janice Marie on 9/11, said he actually felt sorry for Moussaoui “But not enough to drop the possibility of him getting the death penalty.
“I describe him like a dog with rabies, one that cannot be cured. The only cure is to put him or her to death, Scott said.
But Scott said he also blamed the government “for not acting on certain indicators that could have prevented 9/11 happening.”
The jury began weighing Moussaoui’s fate last Wednesday. During its deliberations, jurors asked only one question publicly, seeking a definition of “weapon of mass destruction.” One of the three convictions for which Moussaoui could be executed is conspiracy to use weapons of mass destruction.
The jurors were told that a plane used as a missile – the tactic employed on Sept. 11 – qualifies as a weapon of mass destruction.
Moussaoui pleaded guilty last April to conspiring with al-Qaida to hijack aircraft and other crimes. At the time, he denied being part of the 9/11 plot, saying he was being trained for a separate attack, but he changed his story when he took the stand and claimed he was to have flown a hijacked airliner into the White House that day. The defense suggested Moussaoui would say anything to derail his own defense so he could achieve martyrdom through execution.