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May 3, 2006
Moussaoui Gets Life In Supermax

A jury declined to give Zacarias Moussaoui the death penalty for his refusal to tip federal officials about the 9/11 terrorist plot, even after they found him legally responsible for at least one death in connection to the attack. The jury unanimously chose the lesser sentence of life without the possibility of release in the only criminal trial resulting from the worst attack on American soil:

A federal jury decided today that Sept. 11, 2001, conspirator Zacarias Moussaoui should be sentenced to life in prison, rejecting government arguments that he should be executed for his role in the deadliest terrorist strike on American soil.

"America, you lost. I won!" Moussaoui yelled as he was escorted from the U.S. District courtroom in Alexandria after the verdict was read. He clapped his hands as he left. ...

U.S. District Judge Leonie M. Brinkema is scheduled to formally sentence Moussaoui at 10 a.m. Thursday and cannot deviate from the sentence recommended by the jury.

The readers of this blog know that I oppose the death penalty, but this case came close to being an exception for me. First, Moussaoui has never pretended that he had nothing to do with al-Qaeda, our enemy at war, and his presence in the US on a mission of sabotage qualifies him in my mind for a military tribunal for espionage and a firing squad if convicted. We chose to try him in criminal court instead, and we convicted him of everything that he wanted to acknowledge publicly anyway. In that sense, the trial only acted as confirmation and almost became irrelevant in comparison to the sentencing.

Moussaoui's outburst aside, he lost in this process. He never counted on capture and trial as part of his work for AQ; he either wanted to die as a martyr in an attack on America, or get away with an attack with his life and freedom intact. He did neither. His partners in AQ won a battle on 9/11, and to the extent that he didn't inform on them, he can claim a piece of that. Otherwise, his career as a terrorist gives a picture of nothing but failure and humiliation. Only Moussaoui managed to act stupidly enough to draw attention to his flight training, and only Moussaoui managed to get caught, out of twenty conspirators.

After being caught, Moussaoui did his best Richard Ramirez impersonation to get his martyr's death. He openly proclaimed his hatred of the US, tried to fire the lawyers who worked tirelessly to save his life, and practically dared the jury to give him a death sentence. Had he received it, he would have been transformed into a global cause celebre, the new poster boy for American cruelty for our use of capital punishment. His appeals would have garnered headlines for years, and human rights groups would have lit candles and held vigils for him. In a few years, the US would have put him to death, accompanied by worldwide protests and endless publicity -- all focused on this one sociopathic misfit who would have achieved his greatest victory through this mastery of manipulation.

Now, however, he faces a very long time in prison and the gradual oblivion he deserves. Forty years from now, Moussaoui will die in this supermax facility of old age, and newspapers will have to explain to half of their readership exactly who this man was. Human rights groups will have no interest in him, and while a few lunatic terrorists will salute him in the near term, they will quickly move their focus to other martyrs and more intelligent and dangerous leaders. Hollywood celebrities will not hold benefits for his defense. Publishers of childrens' books will not offer him book deals. Candles will not be lit for his benefit. He gets to live in a cage for decades, and die almost anonymously and unremarkably.

It's hard to argue with that sentence, in the long run.

UPDATE: Allahpundit rounds 'em up at Hot Air.

Sphere It Digg! View blog reactions
Posted by Ed Morrissey at May 3, 2006 5:40 PM

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Tracked on May 3, 2006 10:01 PM


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