Tuesday, March 14, 2006

Moussaoui update

As I reported here, U.S. District Judge Leonie Brinkema had considered throwing out the death penalty case after discovering that a government lawyer had improperly coached and shared testimony with witnesses.Bloomberg.com: Top Worldwide
After a day-long hearing, she decided to resume on Monday the sentencing phase of the trial that will determine if Moussaoui, who has pleaded guilty to conspiracy in connection with the hijacked airliner attacks, will be executed.

But Brinkema handcuffed the Government's case by disallowing the Federal Aviation Administration and Transportation Security Administration witnesses who had been contacted by government lawyer Carla Martin. They will not be able to testify and evidence from them would not be allowed.

"I am removing from this case any and all witnesses and evidence dealing with the aviation component," Brinkema said.

"What we have in this case ... is that six witnesses -- two for the government and four potential defense witnesses, were tainted," she said.

The prosecution had argued the witnesses were vital, with that portion of the government's argument representing about half of the evidence of Moussaoui's guilt.

The government is trying to prove that if Moussaoui had not lied to the FBI when he was arrested three weeks before Sept. 11, the FAA would been able to thwart the attacks through increased security measures on airplanes.

Martin, a veteran attorney, e-mailed transcripts of the trial and tried to coach potential witnesses on how to respond to questions.

"I don't think in the annals of criminal law there has ever been a case with this many significant problems," Brinkema said.

Martin appeared briefly in court but did not testify because she did not have a lawyer to represent her. "I was unable to get counsel at all," Martin said. "This is an adversarial proceeding, but I am not represented."

Brinkema advised Martin of her Miranda rights, which are read to crime suspects arrested in the United States, and warned her she might be held in civil or criminal contempt.

After a conference with lawyers from each side, Brinkema approved a postponement of the trial until Monday to give prosecutors time to consider whether to appeal Brinkema's decision, the court said in a statement.


Dan Zaremba said...

I have very lttle idea about the US court proceedings but I thought that witness coaching was a common practice.

Freedom Fighter said...

Well mate,coaching witnesses is one thing.

Coaching them based on transcripts of the testimony of other witnesses is very much another thing.

Especially when the judge underlined it with a court order!

I hate to say it, but this judge is right. And that lawyer is in deep barney rubble, as they say!

Pity. If it were up to me, this guy would have gotten a quick military tribunal and a Texas necktie party, followed by a pigskin burial.

Now that would have sent a meesage to his terrorist pals!