ALEXANDRIA, Va., May 3 — A federal court jury spared the life of Zacarias Moussaoui today, voting to send him to prison for the rest of his days rather than condemn him to death for the carnage of Sept. 11, 2001.
Although Mr. Moussaoui testified that he was proud to belong to Al Qaeda and took delight in the 9/11 attacks, his lawyers portrayed him as a bumbling terrorist hanger-on who slid in and out of mental illness. To execute him, the lawyers argued, would be to grant him a martyrdom he did not deserve.
UPDATE 5/4: Slate's Dahlia Lithwick nails it:
This case was about a conspiracy, about some factual connection, however attenuated, between Zacarias Moussaoui's jihadi heart and the events of 9/11. And although the government has steadfastly stood by its legal claim that it was enough for Moussaoui to have wanted to be on those planes on 9/11, enough for him to have delighted as those planes went down, the jurors recognized this afternoon that a conspiracy to aid in a terror plot requires more than just a bad heart, and more than mere willingness to participate in the next one.(Props to BARBARian colleague the
This decision, which will doubtless bring with it some serious national fallout, is more subtle, and more courageous, than the prosecution itself. Acting as a check on a runaway state, these jurors refused to allow a government needing a scapegoat and a man wishing for martyrdom to stand in the way of the facts. These jurors understood that for this country to kill a terrorist for his ideas, hopes, and dreams is not much different than the terrorist's desire to come here and kill us for ours.