Population Statistic: Read. React. Repeat.
Friday, May 05, 2021

I’ve already expressed how the trial of Zacarias Moussaoui was a misguided straw-man revenge play.

Now that the verdict has been handed down, the government’s failure to get the death penalty highlights how some fundamental legal precepts got lost in this pointlessness.

In the 136 capital cases the federal government has brought in the last two decades, 122 convictions have been obtained, according to the Federal Death Penalty Resource Counsel Project, a group that assists lawyers defending federal capital cases. But the juries in those cases imposed death sentences only 49 times.

“Obtaining the death penalty is not easy,” said Michael Greenberger, a law professor at the University of Maryland and a terrorism expert who served in the Clinton administration. “If politics had been taken out of this and they weren’t looking for a trophy case, they never would have taken this case to the jury.”

I have some experience with this, on a far smaller scale. The jury I sat on for a murder case in Pinellas Park, Florida didn’t have to consider the death penalty, and there was a good reason for that:

The state could have gone for the death penalty in this case, but declined to do so, opting for life without parole instead. It was never explained why, but as we went through jury selection and the trial, I understood the strategy. The death penalty is an absolute, severe sentence. In a case like this, where the accused is not actually holding the murder weapon and committing the crime, but rather could be interpreted as being merely an accessory, knowledge that a guilty verdict would result in sure death is disquieting enough to sway jurors in their decision — it would, in effect, create its own reasonable doubt. So, opting for a seemingly less severe punishment would remove a potential impediment in clear deliberations (although life without parole is, really, as onerous, or even more so, depending on how you look at it).

And you could credibly argue that the above description — “the accused is not actually holding the murder weapon and committing the crime, but rather could be interpreted as being merely an accessory” — fits Moussaoui. Regardless of his courtroom antics, it’s hard to consign death to someone who didn’t actually do the deed.

Indeed, that appears to have been the case:

Having answered the eligibility question, the jury weighed the factors for and against execution. Given the gravity of the crime, that might have seemed the simpler task.

But three of the jurors seemed to contradict their earlier finding, saying in a note they added to the form they handed in on Wednesday that Mr. Moussaoui had only limited knowledge of the Sept. 11 plot.

“Three of the jurors, at least, had buyer’s remorse,” said Andrew C. McCarthy, a former federal prosecutor who handled terrorism cases in New York in the 1990’s.

A jury that actually holds a defendant’s life in its hands often flinches, said Robert Weisberg, a law professor at Stanford.

“The nullifying effect of lingering doubt came in, as it does in a lot of capital cases,” Professor Weisberg said. “That is the only way to read consistency into an otherwise inconsistent vote by some of them.”

Simply put: It’s not easy to get a group of people to endorse an execution. Members of the jury that I served on had trouble sleeping at night, and they didn’t even have to consider the death penalty. So you can imagine how it was for the Moussaoui jurors.

by Costa Tsiokos, Fri 05/05/2021 09:55:50 PM
Category: Political, True Crime | Permalink | Feedback


Last night, I talked to a girl named Winter. Based just on the name, she instantly brought to mind the lyrics from Blondie’s “Sunday Girl”: “Cold as ice cream, but still as sweet”. (Actually, she wasn’t cold at all, but she did seem sweet.)

I went to school with a girl named Summer. Actually, her full name was Summertime; I think she had hippie parents. Gorgeous gal.

And I vaguely remember a girl named Autumn from my childhood.

So now, for completeness’ sake, I need to run into a woman named Spring. Or Springtime. Whatever.

by Costa Tsiokos, Fri 05/05/2021 12:42:03 PM
Category: Creative, Women | Permalink | Feedback (2)