Open Letter to Stand-By Counsel in the Moussaoui Case
Today, May 4, 2006, the media announced that Zacarias Moussaoui was sentenced to life imprisonment without parole. Contrary to received opinion, this decision does neither render justice nor fulfill security needs.
I appreciate that you have pleaded Moussaoui’s insanity and difficult childhood as mitigating circumstances. However, there are a number of grave irregularities in the proceedings, which should have compelled the dismissal of the case in its entirety.
The first irregularity is that the Court admitted Moussaoui’s endorsement of a so-called Statement of Facts. By signing this Statement, Moussaoui formally “agreed” that “[i]f this case were to go to trial, the Government would prove the following facts beyond a reasonable doubt.” Moussaoui thus effectively allowed the U.S. Government to escape the need to prove its own allegations. Moussaoui’s signature was, however, no more than a statement of opinion.
Take, for example, the third statement of fact. There Moussaoui claims that “[c]amps in Afghanistan were used to instruct members and associates of Al Qaeda and its affiliated groups in the use of…chemical weapons, and other weapons of mass destruction.” But even the U.S. Government has not made such a formidable allegation. Was Moussaoui simply trying to embellish the case against himself?
By Statements 17-21, Moussaoui apparently “agreed” with the official narrative on the hijacking of four aircraft by Al Qaeda members on 9/11. Yet he was not a witness to these events and was therefore incompetent to opine, whether these acts took place as described. On the day of 9/11 he sat in prison.
Yet the Court admitted Moussaoui’s signature on the Statement of Fact as if it represented a bona fide certification of facts, made in good faith.
The second major irregularity is the introduction into the proceedings of “evidence” attempting to link Moussaoui to the events of 9/11. I appreciate the objection by the Stand-By Counsel that legal causality existed between Moussaoui’s alleged “silence” in custody and the harmful consequences of the events of 9/11. This objection apparently did not deter Judge Brinkema from directing the jury to consider this link in determining Moussaoui’s sentence. By such an unwarranted direction, and by introducing emotionally loaded evidence from 9/11 into the proceedings, Judge Brinkema deliberately induced the jury to conclude that the “Government has proven beyond a reasonable doubt that the actions of […] Moussaoui…in fact did cause, tremendous disruption to the function of the City of New York and its economy,” as well as “tremendous disruption to the function of the Pentagon.”
Yet, there exists absolutely no causal link between Moussaoui’s acts (of commission or omission) and the crime of 9/11. More disturbing still is that the Court directed the jury to assume that the official narrative on the events of 9/11 had been proven beyond reasonable doubt and needs not be further questioned, as if the Court had taken judicial notice of this narrative. These assumptions comprise particularly the manner in which the crime of 9/11 was executed as well as the identity of the perpetrators. Remember that none of the facts surrounding the crime of 9/11 has ever been judicially determined, let alone proved beyond reasonable doubt, as is the practice in criminal cases. Judge Brinkema expected the members of the jury to rely – with regard to the events of 9/11 – on what they had read in newspapers.
Unfortunately, the Moussaoui case is now widely hailed as the “first conviction” of a 9/11 terrorist. While everybody is rightly shocked by Moussaoui’s obscene shoutings, these alone do not justify the inhumane sentence inflicted on this person. I share his family’s grief and anger.
More serious in terms of policy is that this trial may induce in the public a false sense of vindication, as if the families of the victims could now feel relieved that justice had been rendered. This is far from being the case. Moussaoui did not participate in the mass murder. His trial was an attempt to show some result in the war on terror. The various irregularities accompanying the trial, including those mentioned above, only served to undermine public confidence in the judicial process. The trial did not increase public security: The real planners and perpetrators of 9/11, whoever they are, still roam at large, and represent a true threat. The trial did not either contribute to a better insight into what actually happened on 9/11. Moussaoui’s inexplicable confessions were seized by the Government as one more occasion to refrain from proving its case on the events of 9/11.
I urge you, respectfully, to consider seriously the above shortcomings, if an Appeal is going to be lodged on behalf of Moussaoui.