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Moussaoui: 'Crazy or not crazy? That is the question'

9/11 conspirator's odd ideas, behavior detailed at trial

From Phil Hirschkorn
CNN

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A jury is deciding whether Zacarias Moussaoui will die for his connection with the September 11 attacks.

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ALEXANDRIA, Virginia (CNN) -- Confessed Al Qaeda terrorist Zacarias Moussaoui sits alone at his own table in the courtroom, convinced that his lawyers are trying to trick federal marshals into killing him.

He spits water at a psychologist hired by his lawyers to evaluate him.

And, he says President Bush ultimately will set him free.

"Crazy or not crazy? That is the question," Moussaoui said Tuesday, cutting to the heart of his case after jurors left the courtroom for a break.

The defense's leading mental health expert continued to offer details supporting his assessment that Moussaoui is a paranoid schizophrenic who suffers from delusions. (Watch Moussaoui's childhood issues -- 2:01)

Clinical psychologist Xavier Amador talked to Moussaoui in jail, observed him in court and studied his writings.

Asked if it was a coincidence that Moussaoui's mental illness appeared at about the same time he became a radical Muslim fundamentalist, Amador said, "Did his illness facilitate his desire to join a paranoid, hateful group? I don't know."

He called Moussaoui's insistence that his defense team is out to kill him a "bizarre paranoid belief." Moussaoui's contentions that the attorneys never sought a Muslim attorney for him or a change in the trial's venue are simply wrong, he said.

'Psychotic' belief

Letters dating back to 2002 documented his lawyers' efforts to carry out his wishes. The doctor said Moussaoui has an "information-processing deficit" as a result of his illness.

Amador said Moussaoui sits away from his defense attorneys because of a "psychotic" belief: That his attorneys will "trick" the marshals into thinking he is attacking them and respond by killing him.

The psychologist told jurors that Moussaoui's rejection of his attorneys is a function of his illness, and the tactic is not shared by other al Qaeda defendants.

"It's unique to him, it's not rational," he said.

Amador's interviews with nine officers who have guarded Moussaoui at the Alexandria jail bolstered his view that Moussaoui is delusional about a forthcoming presidential pardon.

"He believes it with absolute conviction," Amador said. Moussaoui nodded in agreement.

Guard Vikas Ohri told the jury Monday that Moussaoui consistently insists Bush will release him, and that he will then return to England and perhaps write his memoirs for a substantial sum.

"He tells me he will be set free," Ohri said. "He doesn't say when."

From the beginning, Moussaoui has resisted being examined by Amador and government-hired psychiatrists. On one occasion, Moussaoui spat water on Amador 10 times as he waited to talk to him in the courthouse holding cell.

"The last thing Mr. Moussaoui wants, I know, is to be portrayed as mentally ill," Amador said.

Following Amador, the defense plans to call a second doctor, Michael First, who has made the same diagnosis.

9/11 families to testify for defense

Later, defense attorneys plan to call about a dozen relatives of September 11 attack victims in an effort to persuade a jury to spare Moussaoui's life.

Jurors already have held Moussaoui responsible for at least some of the nearly 3,000 deaths in the September 11, 2001, terrorist attacks. Although Moussaoui was in custody at the time, jurors concluded that his lies to federal authorities furthered al Qaeda's plot.

The mental health testimony is taking longer than expected, so the 9/11 relatives might not testify until Wednesday. Most of the defense witnesses lost loved at the World Trade Center.

Prosecutors have already called about 30 relatives of Trade Center victims to describe the impact of their losses

Alice Hoagland is one of the family members expected to appear for the defense. She's the mother of Mark Bingham, 31, one of the heroes of United flight 93, the hijacked plane that crashed in a Pennsylvania field after a passenger uprising.

Hoagland, who was in court observing the trial Monday, said in a recent interview with CNN that she hopes that the United States would show Moussaoui more mercy than his confederates showed 9/11 victims.

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