Thursday, May 04, 2006

"Complex martyr"

The Justice Department spent years and millions trying to execute Zacarias Moussaoui. The administration needed somebody to sacrifice as a scapegoat for 9/11, and the hapless, schizophrenic Moussaoui was the only candidate in inventory. The prosecution dragged scores of witnesses through the courtroom to tell their stories of loss, showed horrific picture after picture, and even led off its death penalty dog and pony show with the unctuous ring master Rudy Giuliani.

Remember, Moussaoui had plead guilty to conspiracy in the events of 9/11, even though his complicity was pretty much only in his own mind. The judge could have just sentenced him to life, and that would have been it. But, oh no, they had to put Moussaoui on trial in a Virginia district court with a “rocket docket” and a penchant for finding jurors who like the death penalty.

Dahlia Lithwick writes, very well as usual, about the outcome in the Moussaoui case in Complex Martyr. Here’s a little of what she said about the case:
In the end, the only real link between the acknowledged fact that Moussaoui was a terrorist who was willing to die in a suicide attack and the actual attacks of 9/11 existed in the minds of the prosecution. And, at the last minute, these links sprang to life in the fantasy world of the terrorist himself, who cooked up a strange Forrest Gump plot—starring himself and Richard Reid—that the judge herself considered to be hooey and that even the prosecutors didn't believe.

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.

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.

Yesterday was a good day for the American jury system. Spot can hardly wait for Katie, Mona Charen, Debra J. Saunders, or Clifford May to weigh in on the subject.

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