[JURIST] Carla Martin, the Transportation Security Administration [official website] lawyer who improperly coached witnesses [JURIST report] against defendant Zacarias Moussaoui [JURIST news archive] in his September 11 sentencing trial, was placed on paid administrative leave Thursday. According to trial judge Leonie Brinkema, Martin egregiously violated federal rules when she sent witnesses e-mails [redacted PDF] about their upcoming testimony that disclosed parts of the government's case contrary to a sequestration order [PDF], coached them on how to react to defense cross-examination, and lied to defense lawyers to interfere with interviewing potential witnesses. Martin's ethical violations could lead to civil or criminal contempt charges, accompanied by penalties which could include fines, disbarment, or even imprisonment.
As for Moussaoui, who pleaded guilty [JURIST report] to conspiracy charges [indictment] that he was involved in other al Qaeda plans to commit terrorist acts with hijacked planes, Martin's misconduct means that the prosecution will have to seek the death penalty against him without the aid of aviation-related evidence, which Brinkema has prohibited the government from presenting [JURIST report; PDF order]. One witness, however, has claimed she was not tainted by Martin's emails [JURIST report], and the prosecution has requested that Brinkema reconsider her ruling [JURIST report] arguing it is "unprecedented and overbroad." AP has more.