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Opening arguments begin in Moussaoui sentencing trial

[JURIST] Opening arguments began Monday in the sentencing trial [case docket] of Zacarias Moussaoui [JURIST news archive] with government prosecutors claiming the defendant's lies to the FBI when he was arrested in August 2001 could have prevented the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks [JURIST news archive]. Court-appointed defense attorneys for Moussaoui argued instead that he had no knowledge of the attacks, backing his contentions that he was a faithful member of al-Qaida but saying he was not involved in the Sept. 11 plot. Moussaoui pleaded guilty [JURIST report] last April to conspiracy charges [indictment] that he was involved in other al-Qaida plans to commit terrorist acts with hijacked planes, and the selected jury will now decide whether he should receive the death penalty or life in prison.

US District Judge Leonie Brinkema [official profile] selected [JURIST report] 12 jurors and 6 alternates in 90 minutes Monday, but one was dismissed after she expressed distress in being chosen. The jury includes an Iranian-born Muslim woman, a Navy lieutenant who served in Desert Storm [Global Security backgrounder], a woman whose brother-in-law helped in rescue efforts on 9/11 as a member of the New York Police Department [official website], and a teacher who has traveled in the Middle East. Attorneys for Moussaoui expressed concern [JURIST report] last week over a potential jury pool stacked with individuals connected to Sept. 11, but only two selected jurors have an actual link to the terrorist attacks. AP has more.

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