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Fourth Circuit to rehear oral arguments in Moussaoui appeal

[JURIST] The US Court of Appeals for the Fourth Circuit [official website] on Tuesday ordered new arguments [PDF] in the case of convicted terrorist Zacarias Moussaoui [BBC profile; JURIST news archive]. The court is rehearing the case due to the retirement of Chief Judge Karen Williams, who heard oral arguments [JURIST report] in January. Williams announced last week [Times and Democrat report] that she was retiring due to early-onset Alzheimer’s disease. Moussaoui's counsel previously requested that his guilty plea and life sentence be withdrawn and a new trial be granted, arguing that his plea was involuntary due to Fifth and Sixth Amendment [text] violations. His lawyers additionally argued that Moussaoui's unawareness of the charges against him violated Rule 11 [text] of the Federal Rules of Criminal Procedure and that his trial counsel did not have access to statements made by al Qaeda members denying Moussaoui's involvement in the 9/11 conspiracy [JURIST report]. The re-argument is scheduled to begin on September 25, 2009.

Moussaoui's lawyers appealed his conviction [JURIST report] in January 2008. He received a life sentence after pleading guilty [JURIST report] to six conspiracy charges [indictment] in connection with the 9/11 attacks, including conspiracy to commit acts of terrorism transcending national boundaries, conspiracy to destroy aircraft and conspiracy to use weapons of mass destruction. He avoided the death penalty [JURIST report] due to one juror's refusal to agree to it.

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