Jury decides on life sentence for embassy bomber
Man convicted in Tanzania blast spared death sentence
By Phil Hirschkorn
NEW YORK (CNN) -- A federal jury Tuesday decided that convicted U.S. Embassy bomber Khalfan Khamis Mohamed will be sentenced to life in prison without the possibility of parole.
U.S. District Court Judge Leonard Sand scheduled a sentencing date of September 19.
Mohamed was convicted in May of killing the 11 people who died in the August 7, 1998, bombing of the U.S. Embassy in Dar es Salaam, Tanzania. A near simultaneous bombing of the U.S. Embassy in Kenya killed 213 people.
The same jury had deadlocked on the death penalty for a co-defendant last month, sparing the life of Mohamed Rashed Daoud Al-'Owhali, 24, of Saudi Arabia. He was convicted in the Kenyan blast.
"He's grateful he's been given a chance to live his life," said Mohamed defense attorney David Stern. "Like all human beings he has good and bad."
Mary Jo White, U.S. attorney for the Southern District of New York, expressed only slight disappointment with the jury's decision.
"In the government's view, the just and appropriate sentence ... was the death penalty," she said in a written statement. "But in our system of justice, the ultimate sentence of death requires the unanimous vote of all 12 jurors. That is a critical safeguard, and we respect both the process and the jury's efforts. ...
"No conviction or sentence, of course, can bring back the victims or make their families whole, but they will never be forgotten," White added.
Tuesday's decision concluded a six-month prosecution resulting in convictions against four men involved in the two embassy bombings -- part of an alleged plot by Osama bin Laden, the fugitive Saudi millionaire, to kill Americans worldwide. A dozen Americans were among the dead in the two bombings.
The two remaining defendants in the current case -- Wadih El-Hage, 40, a Lebanese-born U.S. citizen from Arlington, Texas, and Mohamed Sadeek Odeh, 36, of Jordan -- were convicted of conspiracy and face automatic life sentences. All four were convicted by the same jury May 29.
September sentencing dates have been scheduled for al-'Owhali, Odeh and El-Hage.
Jurors explain reasons for sentence
Mohamed's penalty phase lasted eight days, during which prosecutors called relatives of those killed in the bombing and injured survivors to describe the lasting impact of the blast and their loss.
Jurors reached their verdict on Mohamed's sentence in their third day of deliberations. The jury of seven women and five men cited several reasons why Mohamed's life should be spared.
-- Ten jurors agreed that Mohamed, 27, was not a leader of the conspiracy and was a minor participant in the embassy bombings.
-- Eleven jurors noted that other equally or more culpable conspirators do not face the death penalty.
-- Seven jurors believed that execution would make Mohamed a martyr and could be used to justify future terrorist acts.
-- All 12 jurors believed execution would cause Mohamed's family to suffer grief and loss. His mother and several siblings were flown in from Zanzibar, Tanzania, to testify.
Decision sends message, defense says
The embassy bombings trial represented the first time since the 1950s that federal prosecutors sought the death penalty in the Southern District of New York. It was also the first time the U.S. sought the death penalty for crimes committed outside the United States.
Trial evidence showed that Mohamed trained at bin Laden-financed camps for Islamic militants inside Afghanistan, rented a safe house where the Tanzania bomb was assembled, purchased a jeep bombers used to cart explosive materials, ground TNT and loaded it onto the bomb truck, and rode with the truck part way to the targeted embassy in Dar es Salaam.
Prosecutors had argued that Mohamed would pose a future danger, even in a maximum security prison. The government said Mohamed, while awaiting trial, was an accomplice to a jail stabbing that left a corrections officer seriously disabled.
The defense, however, had called a psychiatrist who said Mohamed felt remorse for his crimes. His mother and siblings, who flew from Tanzania, also urged jurors to spare his life.
Mohamed defense attorney David Ruhnke said the jury's decision sends a message to the U.S government, which stands virtually alone among the world's Western democracies in imposing capital punishment.
"If you are going to seek the death penalty, it can't be against the foot soldiers or people the organization views as expendable," Ruhnke said.
"Killing people doesn't accomplish anything," added defense attorney Stern. "We as a country and we as a state know what justice is."
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