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Tanzania Embassy Bomber Sentenced to Life

Aired July 10, 2001 - 11:14   ET

THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.


THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
BRIAN NELSON, CNN CORRESPONDENT: And as we mentioned earlier, a verdict has been reached in the death penalty phase of the trial surrounding the bombing of the U.S. embassy in Tanzania and we've now got that verdict for you. And let's join Phil Hirschkorn, CNN's Phil Hirschkorn, who is on the phone with us from New York -- Phil.

PHIL HIRSCHKORN, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Brian, the last verdict in the embassy bombings trial is in, and for the second time, the jury has rejected the federal government's request for the death penalty. Instead, convicted Tanzania embassy bomber, Khalfan Khamis Mohamed, a 27-year-old Tanzanian, will be sentenced to life in prison without the possibility of parole. The jury rendered its verdict just a few minutes ago on this, its third day deliberating Mohamed's punishment.

Now, in May, the same jury of seven women and five men found Mohamed guilty in the terrorist conspiracy to kill Americans and destroy U.S. government property, a conspiracy the government says has been led by Saudi exile Osama bin Laden. Specifically, Mohamed was found guilty of carrying out, with others, the bombing of the U.S. embassy in Dar-es-Salaam, Tanzania on August 7, 1998 and of murdering the 11 Tanzanians who died in the attack. That's why he was eligible for the death penalty.

And you'll recall that a nearly simultaneous bombing occurred the same day at the U.S. embassy in Nairobi, Kenya, killing 213 people. Two other trial defendants were convicted in that attack. Mohamed had nothing to do with the Nairobi attack.

Now, Mohamed's penalty phase lasted eight days. The prosecution called relatives of those killed and injured survivors to describe the victim impact. Prosecutors also argued Mohamed would pose a future danger even in a maximum security prison. The government said Mohamed had been an accomplice to a jail stabbing that left a corrections officer seriously disabled. Mohamed's former cellmate allegedly committed that crime and the verdict indicates the jury was not unanimously persuaded that Mohamed had any responsibility for it. On this verdict form, jurors voted against the idea that Mohamed continues to pose a threat, a big blow for the prosecution's case.

Now, the defense had called a psychiatrist who said Mohamed now feels remorse for his crimes and the defendant's mother and siblings were flown in from Tanzania to say that an execution would cause them grief. On the verdict form, all 12 jurors said those arguments were weighed imposing a death penalty, that is, that it would hurt his own family. None of the jurors accepted the statement that Mohamed feels remorse -- Brian?

NELSON: All right, so it is the second verdict for life in prison regarding this case. Phil, any other insights as to why the jury voted the way it did?

HIRSCHKORN: Yes, there are. In voting for life in prison, there are several reasons that the jurors offered. In fact, they're required to go through, in this case there's about a 15 page form of various aggravating factors which the government proposed, mitigating factors which the defense proposed. Here are some of the things that they said.

Ten jurors agreed Mohamed was not a leader of this worldwide conspiracy and was a minor participant in the embassy bombings. Eleven jurors noted that others equally or more culpable conspirators don't face the death penalty. Seven jurors found that execution would make Mohamed a martyr and could be used to justify future terrorist acts. Finally, three jurors volunteered the view that execution, which would be by lethal injection, is a lighter punishment than life in prison. That's the same view some jurors offered last month when they rejected the death penalty for convicted Kenya embassy bomber, Mohamed Alawali (ph) -- Brian.

NELSON: All right, thank you, CNN's Phil Hirschkorn reporting to us from New York. And once again to recap there, that they have reached a verdict of life in prison, this in the death penalty phase of the trial surrounding the bombing of the U.S. embassy in Tanzania. That's the second time that a jury has opted for life in prison rather than the death penalty regarding the bombings of the two U.S. embassies in Africa. And so convicted Tanzania embassy bomber Khalfan Khamis Mohamed will spend the life, the rest of his life in prison without the chance of parole.

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