Analysis of 9/11
Government plans to use Flight 93
cockpit tapes in Moussaoui trial
Published Aug 9, 2002
ALEXANDRIA, Va. -- The Jury in the trial of accused September 11 conspirator Zacarias Moussaoui will be shown videos of the burning and collapsing World Trade Center and family pictures of victims.
Additionally, pictures would be presented of dramatic cockpit voice recordings from United Flight 93, as passengers apparently tried to wrest control of the aircraft from hijackers, prosecutors said Thursday. The prosecution stated that the plane crashed in Pennsylvania, killing 44, including the attackers. An official for NetJets, a company that sells shares in private business aircraft, confirmed that the plane tracking Flight 93, belonged to the company.
Additional recordings would be played from the cockpit of an executive jet that tracked Flight 93 on September 11, according to written proposals subject to approval by U.S. District Judge Leonie Brinkema.
"The government intends to introduce relevant portions of the videotapes and photographs during both the guilt and penalty phases to describe the murders at the WTC,'' the government pleading said.
"This will be particularly important during the penalty phase,'' when prosecutors plan to seek the death penalty. The government said it would introduce photographs of the victims, numbering more than 2,800 from the World Trade Center alone, to show the jury" who was murdered instead of merely hearing statistics.''
Moussaoui will represent himself, and will have an opportunity to reply.
Edward MacMahon, part of a court-appointed defense team that remains in the case over Moussaoui's objections, questioned the fairness of the strategy.
"I'm hopeful there's some limitation on how much of this evidence they'll be allowed to be put on,'' he said in an interview. "The loss is very real and gut-wrenching.... Moussaoui was in prison September 11, and had been there almost a month.''
Moussaoui was taken into custody in August for immigration violations after employees at a Minnesota flight school became suspicious of his conduct.
Last month, Moussaoui, a French citizen, 34, tried to plead guilty to conspiracy to commit terrorism, but withdrew his plea because Brinkema refused to accept it without an admission of complicity in the attacks.
Prosecutors want the judge to allow a veteran police detective to introduce photographs and videotapes of the New York attacks, saving the need to call numerous witnesses. Detective James Wheeler, of the Port Authority of New York and New Jersey, was at the twin towers when the hijacked planes crashed into them and worked to save himself and rescue others.
The New York images would be especially important in the penalty phase, since the government said it wanted to prove the crime was committed in "an especially heinous, cruel or depraved manner in that it involved torture or serious physical abuse to the victims.''
The nature of the crime would constitute an "aggravating'' factor that could convince a jury to approve the federal death penalty.
The government said it would play the cockpit voice recordings from Flight 93 and the executive jet in open court, but asked Brinkema to keep both recordings and their transcripts from dissemination outside the courtroom.
An official for NetJets, a company that sells shares in private business aircraft, confirmed that the plane tracking Flight 93 belonged to the company.
The official, who asked not to be identified by name, said the company was asked not to comment on the September 11 flight but would not say who made the request.
There were 2,823 people killed in New York on September 11 and 189 at the Pentagon in addition to the 44 on Flight 93.
Meanwhile, Moussaoui's court-appointed lawyers asked Brinkema for a two-month postponement of the September 30 trial date. They said the volume of material turned over by the government makes it impossible to be ready by the original date.
The "standby'' lawyers were told by the judge to prepare Moussaoui's defense in case she decides to revoke his right to represent himself.
The latest handwritten motion by Moussaoui, released Thursday, requested access to the "standby'' lawyers' secure Internet site, which contains their trial preparation work. The lawyers favor giving Moussaoui access, without allowing him to connect with any other Internet address.
"Grand nanny Leonie Brinkema must order Uncle Sam to allow Moussaoui to surf the secure internet,'' Moussaoui said. "Caves in Afghanistan are not equipped with ... internet connection and laptop[s] so the U.S. government should be able to manage the traffic.''
The government would not allow Moussaoui access to classified evidence.
"Restrictions on the dissemination of classified information to an admitted al-Qaida member and avowed jihadist such as the defendant protect both valid national security and public safety interests,'' the prosecutors said.
Moussaoui has admitted he belongs to al-Qaida but has denied a role in the attacks.
Editor's note: See from edition 4 - 11 for the truth regarding 9/11. There's proof that Flight 93 did not hit the Pentagon so no passengers died there. My question is where are the passengers who the government said were on the planes?