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Prosecutors to share 9/11 stories during Moussaoui sentencing

March trial will decide fate of confessed al Qaeda aide

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Zacarias Moussaoui has denied direct involvement in the 9/11 attacks.

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(CNN) -- Prosecutors in the trial of Zacarias Moussaoui want to tell jurors 45 personal stories from the victims of the 9/11 attacks, the government disclosed Tuesday.

Moussaoui, 37, pleaded guilty in April to participating in al Qaeda's terrorist conspiracy to fly airplanes into U.S. landmarks, but has denied any direct role in the September 11, 2001, attacks. The government, however, contends that Moussaoui's lies after his August 2001 arrest in Minnesota helped facilitate the attacks and the 2,792 deaths.

He could face the death penalty when jurors in his sentencing phase convene in March.

Prosecutors in the case have filed a motion in the U.S. District Court in Alexandria, Virginia, asking the court to approve the "victim impact" testimony, designed to sway the jury's decision on sentencing.

The attorneys also plan to identify -- by name and photo when possible -- all of the victims in what the prosecution is dubbing "the largest loss of life resulting from a criminal act in American history."

The Justice Department has interviewed hundreds of victims' relatives, as well as those who survived the attacks with injuries, but in the interest of time, the list will be whittled down, prosecutors said. There are about 8,000 known relatives of victims.

"The government believes that having several hundred victims testify during the penalty phase would both unduly complicate and prolong the proceedings and, therefore, is impracticable," prosecutors said.

Some victims lost multiple loved ones. The 45 witnesses, who will represent about 1.6 percent of those who died, are demographically diverse and include people with a variety of relationships to the victims, including spouses, parents, siblings, children and friends, said prosecutors, who haven't released the witness list.

In 2001, the government used the same approach during the New York trial of four men involved in the 1998 truck bombings of the U.S. embassies in Kenya and Tanzania. A handful of witnesses in the case represented the 224 people killed -- including 12 Americans -- and thousands injured.

In that case, jurors decided the defendants deserved life in prison without the possibility of parole, which will be Moussaoui's fate should his jury reject the death penalty.

Attorneys on both sides have submitted questionnaires for the 500-member jury pool, set to convene in February. Prosecutors have filed several complaints about the more voluminous defense questionnaire. (Full story)

Among them: Some questions are redundant, irrelevant or improperly seek "a sneak preview of the jurors' thoughts regarding the appropriateness of the death penalty" in Moussaoui's case, as opposed to their sentiments on capital punishment in general.

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