ALEXANDRIA, Va. – Defense lawyers closed their case for sparing Zacarias Moussaoui’s life Thursday after the government admitted it had no evidence that he and would-be shoe bomber Richard Reid were to have joined in a hijacking as part of the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks, as Moussaoui claims.
Prosecutors then opened their rebuttal case with testimony from psychiatrist Raymond Patterson, who has examined Moussaoui and disputes claims of doctors summoned by the defense that the terrorist conspirator is schizophrenic.
In its last arguments, the defense introduced a statement that was agreed to by the government and presented to the jury considering whether Moussaoui should be executed or imprisoned for life. It said there was no information indicating al-Qaida had instructed Reid to work with Moussaoui on a terrorist operation.
Moussaoui had stunned his trial on March 27 by claiming for the first time that he had intended to participate in the terrorist attacks before his arrest a month earlier, and that Reid was to have been one of his accomplices.
His lawyers hoped the statement would help undercut that claim and bolster their argument that their client is lying about his role in the attacks to inflate his place in history or achieve martyrdom through execution.
Earlier, defense lawyers tried to bring Reid to court from the federal prison in Colorado, where he is serving a life sentence for attempting to detonate a shoe bomb on a trans-Atlantic flight in late 2001.
That bid was thwarted. But defense attorneys were able to obtain from the government its agreement on the statement about Reid instead.
"No information is available to indicate that Richard Reid had pre-knowledge of the Sept. 11 operation or was instructed by al-Qaida leaders to conduct an operation in coordination with Moussaoui," the statement said.
The statement also said Reid had named Moussaoui as the beneficiary in his will and two
FBI analysts concluded that was an unlikely decision for him to make if they were going to be on a joint suicide mission.
The statement also said that the FBI has learned from al-Qaida sources that Reid had been ordered to undertake shoe-bombing attacks in late 2001 with another operative, Saajid Badat, who pulled out of the operation and has never been heard from again.
The two FBI analysts also said that it was unlikely Reid was part of a Sept. 11 plot with Moussaoui because he spent the period from May to September 2001 traveling abroad, including
Israel, Turkey and Amsterdam and
The Hague in the Netherlands.
By contrast, the statement said, all members of the Sept. 11 operation were in the U.S. by July 2001.
Finally, the defense also introduced evidence that six al-Qaida operatives with direct roles in planning and assisting the Sept. 11 plot, including mastermind Khalid Shaikh Mohammed and planner Ramzi Binalshibh, are in U.S. custody and have not been charged at all.
Some Sept. 11 families have criticized the government for bringing charges only against Moussaoui and not seeking indictments against Shaikh Mohammed and others.
The courtroom developments followed a second round of testimony from families of Sept. 11, 2001, victims, who were brought forward by the lawyers trying to spare Moussaoui’s life. These witnesses pressed their point that they don’t seek revenge for their loss.
Testimony from about a dozen relatives was meant to counter the emotional punch of nearly four dozen witnesses who gave heartbreaking testimony for prosecutors about the impact of the attacks that killed nearly 3,000 people.
Among the defense witnesses Thursday was Andrea LeBlanc of New Hampshire, who lost her husband Robert, a retired geography professor, on the United Airlines plane that struck the second of the twin towers of the World Trade Center in New York.
She recalled watching TV when that plane hit, finding out hours later her husband was on it, and the pain of having to tell her kids. "To their credit, they’re all their father’s children," said LeBlanc, an opponent of the wars in Afghanistan and
Iraq. "There’s never angry words, no recrimination or vengeance-seeking."
Court rules prohibited witnesses on either side from opining on the choice jurors will face when deliberations begin next week