JEFFREY BROWN: The sentencing phase of Zacarias Moussaoui's trial featured testimony about the horror of 9/11 from former New York City Mayor Rudy Giuliani and, for the first time, the voices of hijackers, flight attendants, and passengers on United Flight 93 from the cockpit voice recorder that crashed with the plane in a field in Pennsylvania.
The most riveting and emotional testimony came from a group of people tapped by prosecutors and defense attorneys alike: relatives of the 9/11 victims.
Thirty-five family members, as well as several people who'd escaped the attacks, spoke for the prosecution. They included one man who described crawling through smoke to safety at the Pentagon and family members who described wrenching cell phone calls with their loved ones shortly before they died.
Moussaoui smiled as some of them spoke and, when he testified later, he called the bereaved family members' statements "disgusting."
Abraham Scott, whose wife died on American Airlines Flight 11, said those comments only proved further that Moussaoui should be put to death.
ABRAHAM SCOTT, Family Member of 9/11 Victim: I feel no remorse for him. I feel I have no pity for him. I can't -- and I don't know whether I'm contradicting myself -- I don't hate him, but I do believe that he needs to be punished, punished to the fullest.
JEFFREY BROWN: But last week, 13 other family members took the stand as defense witnesses. They described their lost loved ones as loving life and, in other ways, implied they didn't think Moussaoui should be executed for his admitted knowledge of and professed involvement in the 9/11 plot.
Judge Leonie Brinkema had told the families they were not allowed to state explicitly whether they disapproved of the death penalty for Moussaoui. Marilynn Rosenthal, who lost her son, Josh, in the attacks on the World Trade Center, spoke freely outside the courtroom.
MARILYNN ROSENTHAL, Family Member of 9/11 Victim: Mr. Moussaoui is the wrong man to be on trial. There are other people who are in the custody of the U.S. government who were central planners for the 9/11 event; those are the people who should have been on trial. All my research and all the information I have suggests that Mr. Moussaoui is a very marginal and undependable character.
JEFFREY BROWN: Defense attorneys argued the same and called on several mental health professionals to testify that Moussaoui suffers from paranoid schizophrenia.
This same jury, which must now decide whether to sentence Moussaoui to life in prison or death, unanimously found him legally eligible for the death penalty on April 3rd.
Jerry Markon of the Washington Post has been covering the trial and joins us now from outside the federal courthouse in Alexandria, Virginia.
Jerry, before you tell us about the arguments, what was the atmosphere inside the courtroom today?
JERRY MARKON, The Washington Post: The atmosphere was rather emotional again. It sort of reflected a lot of the emotion that you saw during the trial itself.
Once again, the prosecutors were playing videos, those horrible videos of people jumping from, you know, the World Trade Center, and flashing photographs of victims, you know, of the dead on the TV screens as they spoke. And they spoke in very, you know, strong terms; both sides did.
The prosecutors emphasized that Mr. Moussaoui's lack of remorse was grotesque. They called him pure evil. They said that there is, you know, no place on this good Earth for him, that therefore he should be executed.
And the defense spoke in, you know, sort of emotional strong terms, as well. They acknowledged that their own client basically hates them, that they called him callous and indifferent to the suffering, but they sort of issued their own challenge to the jury. They challenged the jurors to not take what they called as the easy option, the easy way out, and to instead sentence him to life, because they say that what Mr. Moussaoui wants is to be sentenced to death.
JEFFREY BROWN: I mentioned in the set-up that the defense had called in these mental health professionals last week. Tell us about that last week and how that played into the argument today.
JERRY MARKON: The mental health stuff actually did not come up today quite as much as I would have expected. I mean, the defense, you know, talked about it, but they probably dwelled more on some other things.
The prosecutors spent quite a bit of time trying to defeat this argument, because they had their own mental health expert last week who actually was the only one who's ever actually interviewed Moussaoui, say that he's not crazy, doesn't have schizophrenia.
And the prosecutors, you know, kept sort of asking the question over and over, pointing out that Mr. Moussaoui, despite his image of having, you know, outbursts in court, was actually very well-behaved during most of the trial and was very calm, you know, and collected both on the stand and when the jurors were out of the courtroom.
And the prosecutor kept saying, you know, did he seem like he had schizophrenia when you saw him here? Did he seem like he had schizophrenia when he was standing -- you know, sitting on that stand saying he wanted to kill every American?
So, you know, both sides used it to make their point. You know, the defense didn't really pound on the idea that you should not execute Mr. Moussaoui because he's mentally ill; they just sort of said this is one of the things that you ought to understand in, perhaps, you know, explaining why Mr. Moussaoui is the way he is and, therefore, implying that he should not be put to death.
JEFFREY BROWN: The other big thing that happened last week was that FBI statement that Richard Reid, the so-called shoe bomber, was not connected with Moussaoui. Now, how did that play out in the arguments today?
JERRY MARKON: Again, surprisingly, not too much. The defense really didn't talk about that. I don't think they did at all, to be honest. I can't remember a reference to it. I was surprised about that. I would have expected more.
The prosecutors just basically, you know, tried to block against it and, you know, and pointed out that the statement from Richard Reid -- you know, it was a written statement and released in court last week -- didn't say that Moussaoui or didn't prove that Moussaoui was lying when Moussaoui testified, as you may remember, that he was going to fly a fifth plane into the White House on 9/11 and that Reid was to be part of his crew.
The statement simply said that the FBI did not have any evidence to support this. I mean, they didn't have any evidence that Reid was involved in 9/11 and they, in fact, believe he was not. But Moussaoui testified that Reid didn't necessarily know about this and that he was not supposed to tell Reid. So, you know, it just really didn't come up too much today.
JEFFREY BROWN: Now, what of Mr. Moussaoui himself today? Any statements or actions in court?
JERRY MARKON: He was his usual sort of cornucopia of emotions today. He smiled on several occasions, particularly when the prosecutors were flashing pictures of the dead on the screen and talking about the suffering.
Other than that, not too much. He looked bored at times. He smiled at times. You know, it's really hard to read him and hard to know what's going through his head.
JEFFREY BROWN: I noticed that Judge Brinkema, in commending both sides, she made an unusual statement. She said to the defense team, "There never has been a defendant as difficult as this one who did everything he could to undermine your efforts."
JERRY MARKON: Yes, that's very true, and I don't think anybody who was in court would disagree with that. And, you know, Mr. Moussaoui, apparently right after that, walked out of court and clapped his hands, in apparent acknowledgment of that fact.
He obviously tried to be difficult from the beginning, and he succeeded. So it was kind of unusual for the judge to say that to the defense, yes.
JEFFREY BROWN: As we said, victims' families testified on both sides of this particular issue, the death penalty, that is. Has this noticeably divided the families there?
JERRY MARKON: That's a really good question. The family members haven't really spoken about that very much; they were told by the judge not to.
My understanding is that some of the family members who talked for the prosecutors were upset that others chose to testify for this admitted terrorist, but they haven't really said that publicly. I think, you know, the family members tend to respect each other and, you know, maybe we'll hear more about that after the trial is over.
JEFFREY BROWN: And I know this jury took four days, I think, last time, with its last decision. Is there any sense now of how long or how much evidence they have to weigh this time?
JERRY MARKON: Well, as people say, you never really know what a jury is going to do or how long they're going to take, so there's just really no way to tell. They closed for the day today at 5:30. And, you know, I think most observers probably expect a couple of days, at least. But, no, there's really no way to predict; we'll have to just see.
JEFFREY BROWN: All right, Jerry Markon of the Washington Post, thanks again.
JERRY MARKON: Thank you.