Moussaoui Jurors See Vivid Sept. 11 Testimony

Zacarias Moussaoui (L) listens to testimony. Credit: Art Lien/AFP/Getty Images. i i

Zacarias Moussaoui (L) listens to former New York Mayor Rudolph Giuliani testify while a video of the Sept. 11 attacks plays in the background Thursday at the Federal Court in Alexandria, Va. Art Lien/AFP/Getty Images hide caption

itoggle caption Art Lien/AFP/Getty Images
Zacarias Moussaoui (L) listens to testimony. Credit: Art Lien/AFP/Getty Images.

Zacarias Moussaoui (L) listens to former New York Mayor Rudolph Giuliani testify while a video of the Sept. 11 attacks plays in the background Thursday at the Federal Court in Alexandria, Va.

Art Lien/AFP/Getty Images

Former New York Mayor Rudolph Giuliani was among those giving emotional testimony at the sentencing trial of Zacarias Moussaoui about the horror of the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks. Prosecutors want Moussaoui to get the death penalty for his role in the attacks. The defense will try to show that Moussaoui deserves a life sentence.

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STEVE INSKEEP, host:

This is MORNING EDITION from NPR News. I'm Steve Inskeep.

The most dramatic part of the trial of Zacarias Moussaoui has often been the behavior of the defendant himself. That may be changing now. Yesterday, prosecutors began working to persuade the jury that Moussaoui should die for his role in the September 11 plot. The jury is hearing families of the victims, and will soon hear the voices of victims themselves.

We'll start our coverage with NPR's Larry Abramson.

LARRY ABRAMSON reporting:

Former Mayor Rudolph Giuliani testified first. Prosecutors let Giuliani provide the narrative to the story of the attacks, while jurors watched unusually graphic footage of the World Trade Centers as they burned and as victims leaped to their deaths to escape the flames.

Then Tamara Rosbrook described the horror of watching the buildings burn from a nearby hotel room, where she and her husband were vacationing. The couple grabbed video camera and filmed the scene and the tape was shown to the jury. Rosbrook broke down in tears repeatedly, as she described watching how the victims gathered in groups near the windows of the building and then jumped, some holding hands. It was powerful stuff and former Federal Prosecutor Andrew McBride says the point was to show that Moussaoui deserves to die because his crime was so cruel.

Mr. ANDREW McBRIDE (Former Federal Prosecutor): I think it goes to one of the aggravating factors, which is that the death was in a particularly horrific manner, like torture. In other words, that some of these individuals were literally facing being roasted alive and took their own lives instead.

ABRAMSON: Under federal law, the government must convince the jury of at least one so-called aggravating factor. McBride says another could be that the attack risked the lives of people other than the immediate victims.

Mr. McBRIDE: The government presented evidence of at least one example where a jumper from the tower killed a fireman because he landed directly on him. And the physics of that meant that someone who wasn't a direct target was also put in danger and killed by the act.

ABRAMSON: Prosecutors told the jury each victim has a story and they began to personalize those victims through photographs and through painful stories about how the deaths still haunt the survivors nearly five years later. Defense attorneys had few questions for the prosecution witnesses and seemed to be biding their time. They indicated they will focus on Moussaoui's troubled childhood, his abusive father, how he fell under the influence of Muslim extremists in London.

Attorney Jonathan Shapiro helped defend John Allen Mohammed in his first trial for the Washington, D.C. sniper shootings. He says the goal for defense attorneys will be to persuade the jurors that Moussaoui is a victim too.

Mr. JONATHAN SHAPIRO (Former Washington, D.C., Sniper Defense Attorney): Juries do not like to kill victims. They need to break through Moussaoui's arrogance and contempt and remind the jurors that he, too, is a human being.

ABRAMSON: That may be tough to do, since Moussaoui continues to shout out anti-American slogans and has testified about his wish to see Americans die. But Jonathan Shapiro says the defense only has to persuade one juror that Moussaoui deserves to live.

Mr. SHAPIRO: That they are free to go with their personal feeling and to exercise mercy. That death never must be imposed.

ABRAMSON: Shapiro also says prosecutors may overwhelm the jury if they present too many heartbreaking stories or too much gore. At one point, Judge Leonie Brinkema responded to a series of pictures of body parts on the streets of Manhattan by saying, that'll be enough of that.

Larry Abramson, NPR News, Washington.

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