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Jury deliberations begin in 9/11 trial

Nine men, 3 women weigh life or death for Moussaoui

From Phil Hirschkorn

Zacarias Moussaoui is the only person to be tried in the U.S. in connection with the 9/11 attacks.



New York
Zacarias Moussaoui

ALEXANDRIA, Virginia (CNN) -- Zacarias Moussaoui personifies "unforgivable evil" and should be put to death, federal prosecutors told jurors Monday at the al Qaeda conspirator's sentencing trial.

Moussaoui's defense argued that he is being offered as "a sacrificial lamb" and should instead spend the rest of his life in in prison.

The nine men and three women on the jury began deliberations Monday afternoon to decide which option best punishes Moussaoui for his role in the September 11, 2001 terrorist attacks. (Moussaoui's life or death is up to jury -- 1:52)

Jurors will weigh 10 aggravating factors -- including the heinousness of the crime and Moussaoui's lack of remorse -- against 23 mitigating factors such as evidence of his mental illness.

Testimony from families of 9/11 victims showed they suffer "never-ending pain," prosecutor David Raskin said. "The defendant rejoices in all of that pain. He told you that himself," he said.

"The defendant, Zacarias Moussaoui, loved every minute of it. To him, it meant mission accomplished," Raskin continued, stepping back from the lectern to point at Moussaoui.

"It is time to put an end to his hatred and venom," Raskin said, urging jurors to punish Moussaoui with a death sentence.

Moussaoui, 37, a Frenchman of Moroccan descent, is the first person tried in this country in the attacks. Nearly 3,000 people died when four hijacked planes crashed into the World Trade Center in New York, the Pentagon in northern Virginia and a field in western Pennsylvania.

Raskin said Moussaoui "was in the middle of this plot, and he lied so this plot could go forward."

Prosecutors say Moussaoui covered up the conspiracy after his arrest a month before the attacks.

Moussaoui testified he feels no remorse for the deaths, giving prosecutors a key point on the checklist of questions the jury must answer to determine his sentence.

'Whole nation suffered'

The jury also must consider the impact of the attacks on victims' families and survivors, New York's government and economy, and the functioning of the nation's military headquarters.

Raskin reminded jurors that victims were "vaporized" when planes hit buildings or "crushed by concrete" when they collapsed.

"This whole nation suffered," Raskin said. "The damage and the pain is heartbreaking, it is mind-numbing, and it is never-ending."

He told jurors to mark the victim impact box on their verdict form with an exclamation point.

Raskin said Moussaoui personifies "unforgivable evil" that cannot be absolved by testimony he has a mental illness.

Mitigating factors offered by the defense, such as Moussaoui's rough childhood, are "simply nonsense" in comparison to the government's evidence and "deserve no weight at all," he argued.

Raskin told the jury to reject the idea that Moussaoui would become a martyr if executed: "He'd rather die in battle, like in a fight with prison guards. Don't let that happen."

In his closing argument, defense attorney Gerald Zerkin called Moussaoui a minor player in the conspiracy and said the trial showed he was a "veritable caricature" of an al Qaeda terrorist and "the operative who couldn't shoot straight."

"The government offers him up as a sacrificial lamb," he said.

He urged the jury to show "courage, not to be swept away by the flood of horrific images or stories of personal devastation" from September 11. If victms' families "need the death of Mr. Moussaoui to recover, it can only be because the government has held that out for them," he said.

Zerkin said, "His execution will not make them better. It will not even start them on the road to recovery."

Defense: Moussaoui wants martyrdom

He said that a death sentence would make Moussaoui a martyr and that jurors should not look at his lack of remorse as a reason to kill him.

"It is proof that he wants you to sentence him to death. He is baiting you into it," the defense attorney said. "He came to America to die in jihad. You are his last chance."

He said a sentence of life in prison would be "not the death of a jihadist, which he clearly wants, but the long, slow death of a common criminal."

Zerkin also reprised the defense argument that Moussaoui is mentally ill, suffering from paranoid schizophrenia.

"The idea that he will be part of a prisoner exchange is absurd," Zerkin said, referring to a theory Moussaoui has voiced. "He is 100 percent certain that he will walk out of there before President Bush's term expires. That is a delusion."

On rebuttal, prosecutor David Novak called the mental health testimony a "bunch of psycho-hogwash."

Novak said Moussaoui spends every waking moment and even his dreams thinking about killing Americans and will try do so even behind bars.

"Are you willing to bet the life of a prison guard?" Novak asked the jury. "Don't give him that opportunity."

The jury decided last month that Moussaoui's lies to interrogators in August 2001 directly resulted in at least some 9/11 deaths.

The jury must be unanimous in finding Moussaoui should be executed by lethal injection.

"If not this case, then when?" Novak said. "He is not a sacrificial lamb. He is a coldblooded killer."

Some 9/11 family members have opposed the death penalty for Moussaoui, saying it will inflate his role and make him a martyr.

But Rosemary Dillard, whose husband died on the plane that hit the Pentagon, agreed with prosecutors.

"For any man or woman to sit there and smile at the death of children, to make light of the pain and suffering of others, what reason does that person have to live?" she said.

"It doesn't make him a martyr," she added. "It makes him one dead Muslim man."

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