The verdict, calling for life in prison, seemed to surprise most people in the courtroom, notably Justice Department prosecutors who had relentlessly urged the jurors that Mr. Moussaoui should be executed for his role in the attacks.The print version of the paper (which you can click to enlarge here) went further, introducing the element of surprise right into the deck beneath the headline.
Surprise Verdict Rejects ExecutionBut the verdict should not have come as a surprise. Since this U.S. district courthouse opened in 1998, jurors there have never sentenced a defendant to death. And in this case, the jury clearly felt there were mitigating factors in his violent childhood and family history of mental illness, his relatively minor role and the testimony of some 9/11 survivors against imposing the death penalty. In view of all this, and above all, the fact that Moussaoui was sitting in jail on September 11, the jury was unwilling to put him to death just so the Bush administration could say they had executed someone in connection with 9/11.
-- Defendant Claims Victory
Bruce Shapiro underscores the essentially political nature of this trial.
Anyone who feels that the Moussaoui verdict somehow cheated justice should also consider the fact that an individual with genuine, direct criminal responsibility for the 9/11 conspiracy is in US custody yet the Justice Department has no intention of bringing him to trial. For three years the Bush Administration has held and interrogated Al Qaeda's Khalid Sheikh Mohammed, in secret prisons, unindicted, untried and unrepresented--at least in part to avoid revealing details of his probable torture.The terrorist attacks in 2001 were unspeakably outrageous. But the anger directed by some commentators against the jury is misplaced. The jury did its job. Outrage should be directed against an administration that, nearly five years later, has yet to hold a single major conspirator responsible.
It's a bizarre paradox: While expending vast resources in an unsuccessful bid for the death penalty against a marginal Al Qaeda volunteer, the Administration has done everything possible to keep the plot's main architect out of court. That would be as if the Allied judges in Nuremberg devoted themselves to SS corporals while never letting Hermann Goering near the courtroom.