Behind the Scenes at the Trial of Zacarias Moussaoui At the Moussaoui trial, reporters are herded, prodded and forced to ride the elevators in feral packs.
NPR logo Behind the Scenes at the Trial of Zacarias Moussaoui

Behind the Scenes at the Trial of Zacarias Moussaoui

The jurors in the Moussaoui trial are still deliberating his fate... so that's left our trusty correspondents at the Virginia courthouse with nothing to do but look back at how deeply surreal the whole experience has been. And I'm not just talking about what happened inside the courtroom. NPR's Laura Sullivan says that the obsession with security at the trial has made it seem like an obstacle course.

"I'd say if there is one phrase that has been more overused in the past month out here than any other, it's 'You may not.' As in, 'you may not bring any electronic devices into the courthouse,' 'you may not talk with any victims' families in the courthouse,' 'you may not leave the courtroom until the lawyers have left,' 'you may not stop moving in a forward direction in the courthouse — no pausing in the lobbies, outside the courtroom or near the elevators for longer than it takes for the elevator to arrive,' 'you may not bring your coat into the courtroom,' 'you may not bring newspaper articles into the courtroom' (but you can bring articles printed out on white paper.) This trial has more bizarre rules than any I've ever covered."

NPR producer Anne Hawke has been watching the trial on video from an overflow room in the courthouse. Even there, they make everyone stand up when the judge comes in on the TV screen. Anne writes:

"Yesterday, we reached new heights of absurdity. We were told credentials would be given out — first come, first served — on the seventh floor at 11:30 a.m. But the area would be cleared from 11:00 to 11:30 a.m. 'Where are we going to form a line?' we asked. 'Not on seven,' we were told. The marshals were instructed to keep reporters from congregating in any area of the court. So a few of us spent about 20 minutes at a bank of pay phones on the second floor, looking as if we were busy making calls. And then several of us decided the best strategy for timing an acceptable arrival to the seventh floor: we'd ride the elevators! No joke. Dozens of reporters — Associated Press, Agence-France Presse , CNN — you name it. Clustered into the four elevators we began asking each other, 'Let's see. Shall we take a trip to three, four, five and six? Whoops, too early for seven. Let's try eight, and back down.'"

But now that the jury's out, the reporters finally catch a break. They're lying outside in the sun waiting for a verdict.