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Tue, Apr 04, 2006

Moussaoui Ruled Eligible For Death Penalty

Now, Jury To Decide If He Deserves It

After giving stunning testimony last week that he had been part of a plan to fly an airliner into the White House on 9/11, Zacarias Moussaoui perhaps shouldn't have been surprised with the verdict presented Monday in the first part of his death penalty trial -- that he is eligible to face the death penalty for his alleged role in the attacks.

"You will never get my blood, God curse you all," Moussaoui said as he was led from the courtroom Monday, according to Agence France Presse.

The jury reached its verdict after just over two days of deliberations -- during which time jurors asked Judge Leonie Brinkema for clarification of the definition of a "weapon of mass destruction" as it applied to a commercial airliner.

The verdict is a victory for federal prosecutors -- but it appears Moussaoui's own words had the most impact with the jury, after he took the stand against advice from his own counsel and admitted to charges the US government had itself retracted since the case began more than four years ago.

Federal prosecutors instead focused on testimony Moussaoui gave when he was arrested in August 2001, saying the confessed al-Qaeda conspirator had not given investigators information he knew that may have helped prevent some or all of the four hijackings that transpired one month later.

"This stage of the penalty phase was probably harder for the government, but that was before he took the stand and connected all the dots for the jury," said Richard Dieter, executive director of the Death Penalty Information Center, to the Associated Press.

The second phase of the trail -- deciding if Moussaoui deserves the death penalty for his alleged crimes -- is scheduled to begin Thursday. Federal prosecutors will reportedly focus on evidence of how brutal Moussaoui's crime was, while the defense will try to demonstrate mitigating factors in Moussaoui's admission.

Whether the government's miscues during the first part of the penalty phase trial -- including TSA attorney Carla Martin's sharing of prosecution memos with federal witnesses -- will impact the second phase remains to be seen.

FMI: www.usdoj.gov

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