No verdict yet in Moussaoui death case

ALEXANDRIA, Virginia - Jurors weighing the death penalty for Zacarias Moussaoui, the only person convicted in the United States in connection with the September 11 attacks, adjourned for the day on Tuesday without reaching a verdict.

The jury of nine men and three women had only one public question during their first full day of deliberations -- whether they could have a dictionary in the jury room.

US District Judge Leonie Brinkema refused their request, saying she did not want to give them "extraneous" reference material. Brinkema also told jurors not to conduct any type of independent investigation in relation to the case.

The jury has spent nearly 10 hours deliberating since they got the case on Monday afternoon. They will resume on Wednesday morning.

Moussaoui, 37, has pleaded guilty to six counts of conspiracy in connection with the hijackings. The jury will decide if he is executed or sentenced to life in prison.

In closing arguments on Monday, federal prosecutors urged jurors to sentence Moussaoui to death for his part in the deadly hijackings that killed nearly 3,000 people.

Defence lawyers have asked the jury to sentence Moussaoui, an admitted al Qaeda member, to life in prison so he would not become a martyr.

Moussaoui, a French citizen of Moroccan descent, was arrested three weeks before the hijackings. But prosecutors say he knew about the plot, and his lies to the FBI after his arrest helped prevent the agency from thwarting the attack.

"Your decision in this case is not a close call. Zacarias Moussaoui came here to kill Americans, and he killed Americans," said prosecutor David Raskin during closing arguments on Monday.

"There is only one penalty that fits this crime and this defendant ... and that is the death penalty."

In testimony at the sentencing trial, Moussaoui said he was supposed to pilot a fifth plane into the White House as part of the plot. The testimony contradicted previous statements he had made that he was not part of the September 11 hijackings but was to take part in a second wave of attacks.

Court-appointed defence attorneys, with whom Moussaoui does not speak, presented evidence from detained al Qaeda leaders who helped plan the September 11 attacks. They said Moussaoui was not part of the hijackings and they dismissed him as untrustworthy.

Defence attorney Gerald Zerkin urged jurors on Monday not to let Moussaoui, who he described as the "only al Qaeda operative inept enough to be captured prior to 9/11", become a martyr.

"He wants you to sentence him to death," Zerkin said. "He is baiting you into it."

"It takes courage not to kill him in the face of his contempt for human suffering, not just in the abstract but up close and personal."

- REUTERS

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