Testimony in the trial was set to begin mid-October, but will now start on Jan. 6 of next year.
U.S. District Judge Leonie Brinkema made the decision in a ruling that agreed to Moussaoui’s request for more time to prepare for the case. Moussaoui, a French citizen of Moroccan descent, is the only individual charged with being directly involved in the hijackings and attacks that left more than 3,000 dead.
“Although the public’s right to a speedy trial is a legitimate concern, this court’s paramount concern is ensuring that the defendant receive a fair trial,” Brinkema said in a three-page ruling. “The volume and complexity of the evidence in this prosecution fully support the defense request.”
Under the deal, the court will begin questioning possible jurors on Dec. 9 and will continue until there is a group of 90 prospective jurors. From that pool, the lawyers will find 12 jurors and six alternates to begin hearing the case on Jan. 9.
Prosecutors in the Eastern District of Virginia had urged the judge to allow the trial to begin on time. In a brief filed this week, the government argued victims of the attacks as well as Moussaoui deserved a swift trial.
The prosecutors said the Sept. 11 attacks were “volleys in a declared war against the United States … intended to terrorize the entire nation. Thus, the victims and the nation’s interest in a fair and speedy trial is beyond dispute.”
The court is still struggling with the issue of how to deal with thousands of documents, many classified, that the prosecution plans to use in the case. According to earlier rulings, Moussaoui cannot examine the documents because he is a security risk, but lawyers working with him may examine the documents.