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'20th Hijacker' Offers Guilty Plea and Cooperation

July 18, 2002 11:46 PM   Subscribe

'20th Hijacker' Offers Guilty Plea and Cooperation
He is charged with helping plan the September 11 attack. During his third arraignment on amended charges, Zacarias Moussaoui offered to enter a guilty plea. "For the guilt phase, I'm guilty," he told the judge. "But for the death penalty, we will see." You'd think in this day and age, it'd be hard to pull off a complete surprise. Moussaoui is representing himself.
posted by rschram (15 comments total)

 
Guess the Justice Department wasn't telling "Clinton lies" after all. This is a stunt.
posted by rschram at 11:47 PM on July 18, 2002


Though I'm increasingly uncomfortable with the death penalty, Moussaoui's change of heart is one of the arguments in favor of it. The information he has could be invaluable in our efforts to fight terrorism. Would he be telling us anything if he wasn't hoping to avoid execution?
posted by rcade at 2:09 AM on July 19, 2002


Interesting how John Walker Lindh and Moussaoui both want to plead guilty in the same week.
Is one swayed by the other?
Or are secret commands being sent through eBay?
posted by a3matrix at 5:25 AM on July 19, 2002


Of course the feds want to make a deal with Zacarious. The clock keeps on ticking and Bush has not delivered bin Laden dead or alive. There's a lot going on with this case and its not being reported, yet. Expect a Lindh like deal/plea. Yes, I'll put the crystal ball away now...
posted by skallas at 6:07 AM on July 19, 2002


Or perhaps extortion of some sort by dark and shady figures?
posted by rushmc at 6:07 AM on July 19, 2002


If the FBI doesn't think he's the 20th hijacker, why does the media keep referring to him that way?
posted by luser at 6:29 AM on July 19, 2002


Well, I'm so relieved. I was worried that it would be difficult to have a normal, orderly criminal trial for an al Qaeda operative.
posted by coelecanth at 6:42 AM on July 19, 2002


My theory is that Moussaoui heard about John Walker Lind's plea bargain and subsequent 20 year sentence and thought, "Hey! I'll plead guilty and get off with 20 years, too!"

The fact that he actually believed in this was a viable option, and his inability to understand what it means to plead guilty to this charge (as proved by his quote in the post), tells me that he's really not fit to defend himself.
posted by jennyb at 7:02 AM on July 19, 2002


I heard NPR's reporter read excerpts from the arraignment, and it was very strange. Moussaoui was trying to do something that the US judicial system doesn't allow, but I don't think it was clear to anyone exactly what. Due to all the confusion, the judge, by the way, didn't let him enter any plea and rescheduled for next week, in hopes Moussaoui can get straightened out by then. We'll see.
posted by tippiedog at 7:27 AM on July 19, 2002


Terrorism aside, the one thing that Moussaoui's case proves to me is that we need to rethink the law on the right to act as one's own counsel.

Contrary to what JennyB implies, the present legal standard of acting one's own attorney is not fitness or competence to defend one's self, but, simply, mental competence to make the decision and understand that it is likely to lead to conviction and harsh sentence.

If a defendant is willing to be imprisoned or executed without mounting a real defense, the proper course is for him to plead guilty after having the advice of competent counsel, not to plead not guilty and then conduct a farcically incompetent defense at trial.
posted by MattD at 7:30 AM on July 19, 2002


TippieDog -- Federal law prohibits a defendant from conditioning his plea upon the receipt of a certain sentence.

Indeed, part of properly formed Federal guilty plea is an acknowledgment that, no matter what the defendant or prosecutor says or recommends, the judge is free to impose the any sentence permitted by law for each offense to which guilt is plead.

That's why the essence of a well-structured plea bargain is not the sentence bargained for but, rather, the offenses which defense and prosecution agree will be the offense to which guilt is plead, and the offenses which defense and prosecution agree will be permanently dropped by the prosecution.
posted by MattD at 7:33 AM on July 19, 2002


jennyb has a point. This headline "Lindh pleaded guilty because he understands the system; real terrorists won't because they don't" seemed a bit of a stretch.
posted by sheauga at 7:35 AM on July 19, 2002


The Post's article has a link to the transcript of the proceedings; it's a long read, but it might shed a bit more light on what he was actually thinking. It sounds to me as though he's convinced that "the legal system" (not just the prosecution, but also the judge and his own attorneys) is out to sabotage his case; somehow he thinks that there is some advantage to pleading guilty & that it would make it easier for him to "give his information"...
posted by scribblative at 7:43 AM on July 19, 2002


tippiedog: I heard the NPR report too. From the excerpts read from the transcript, it is apparent that he does not fully understand the system he faces. Understandably so too, I know I don't understand it.

It did sound a lot like he wanted to make a deal for information. Of course announcing his membership in Al Quaeda (spelling?) and swearing allegiance to Bin Laden probably won't help him too much.

Off to eBay to find the new orders now.
posted by a3matrix at 8:29 AM on July 19, 2002


Contrary to what JennyB implies, the present legal standard of acting one's own attorney is not fitness or competence to defend one's self, but, simply, mental competence to make the decision and understand that it is likely to lead to conviction and harsh sentence.

I actually knew that. What I had meant to say was that I (me, jennyb) don't think he's fit to defend himself in a game of checkers, much less in a court battle, regardless of the legal standard. I didn't say it very clearly though.

Thank you for the explainaintion, MattD, both in that post and the one following. Very good information clearly stated.
posted by jennyb at 10:27 AM on July 19, 2002


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