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Moussaoui Asks to Fire Lawyers

Zacarias Moussaoui is back to filing handwritten motions. Last week he wrote to the judge seeking to fire his lawyers, saying they were incompetent. Today the Judge denied his request.

In a four-page handwritten filing, Moussaoui said his attorneys are trying to guarantee his death by saying he had only a minor role in the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks.

In claiming ineffective assistance by his defense counsel, Moussaoui asserts he had no part in the Sept. 11 plot but that he was to have participated in a separate plan approved by Osama bin Laden to fly a 747 airliner into the White House if the U.S. government refused to negotiate the release of an imprisoned terrorist.

It's the same claim Moussaoui made April 22 when he pleaded guilty to conspiracy charges that could bring the death penalty. It's also consistent with early reports by the French, as we noted in detail here and here.

The judge disagreed. She also noted that Frank Dunham, who has done a yeoman's job on the case, has withdrawn, now that guilt has been resolved and the death penalty becomes the issue.

Also interesting is the release of the transcript from Moussaoui's private hearing with the Judge two days before his guilty plea. He told her he wanted to make sure that if executed, he would be buried in a Muslim nation. As to the reason for his concern,

I was reading something about Timothy McVeigh, and I was reading that the United States government didn't want to release the body," Moussaoui said.

Actually, McVeigh had left explicit instructions with his lawyers and the body was released within hours. McVeigh chose to be cremated. His lawyers have not said what became of the ashes.

Will the Judge allow additional death penalty counsel to come on board? Will Judy Clarke, who played such a major role in saving the lives of the Unabomber, Susan Smith and most recently, Eric Rudolph, return to the Moussaaoui case? She had been part of the team before leaving to do the Rudolph case. I hope so, he needs her more than ever.

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  • Re: Moussaoui Asks to Fire Lawyers (none / 0) (#1)
    by clio on Sat Dec 17, 2005 at 12:58:42 PM EST
    I find it very difficult to believe that Mr. Moussaoui really understands the consequences of his guilty plea. He seems to think that now that he has said he's guilty everything will be fine. A little like the convicted killer who, reportedly, asked the wardens to save his dinner for later. Later being after his execution. I know that the bar for sanity in criminal proceedings is low. I can also see that Mr. Moussaoui is probably coherent enough to assist in his defense if he chooses to do so. All that said, I strongly suspect that, like children, he cannot really comprehend future and the idea of consequence. Knowing that that understanding is not required by law, it still seems wrong to let him jump off a cliff. And, yes, I realize that he would have happily and enthusiastically carried out a role in the hijacking. Probably much more easily than those who do have a developed concept of future. Is there evidence that the reason Mr. M was not on the flights is that the leaders realized that he could not be trusted with secrets? I certainly wouldn't trust him with complex secrets and plots.

    Re: Moussaoui Asks to Fire Lawyers (none / 0) (#2)
    by Peter G on Sat Dec 17, 2005 at 12:58:42 PM EST
    Another story on this subject which I saw states that Judge Brinkema has allowed Moussaoui's lead counsel, chief federal defender Frank Dunham, to withdraw. Too bad. Dunham has done yeoman's work for this guy, in the face of constant abuse. Dunham was excellent before the Supreme Court arguing for Yasser Hamdi, whom he got released to go home to Saudi Arabia.

    Re: Moussaoui Asks to Fire Lawyers (none / 0) (#3)
    by Peter G on Sat Dec 17, 2005 at 12:58:42 PM EST
    Oops, sorry, TL. I commented before clicking "More." I see you had very much the same note about FPD Frank Dunham as I did. You're so right about this being a case for Judy Clarke, too. If she could get Eric Rudolph to trust her, maybe she can get Moussaoui to accept sane legal assistance, too.