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Fourth Circuit upholds life sentence for 9/11 conspirator Moussaoui

[JURIST] The US Court of Appeals for the Fourth Circuit [official website] on Monday upheld [opinion, PDF] the conviction and life sentence of 9/11 [JURIST news archive] conspirator Zacarias Moussaoui [BBC profile; JURIST news archive]. Moussaoui's lawyers had requested that his guilty plea and be withdrawn and a new trial be granted, arguing that his plea was involuntary due to Fifth and Sixth Amendment [text] violations. His lawyers also argued that his 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. The appeals court rejected all of those arguments and "affirm[ed] Moussaoui's convictions and sentences in their entirety."

The appeals court ordered new arguments in the case in July due to the retirement of Chief Judge Karen Williams, who heard oral arguments [JURIST reports] last January. Moussaoui's lawyers appealed his conviction [JURIST report] in January 2008. He received a life sentence after pleading guilty [JURIST reports] 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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