Moussaoui Jurors Mouthing Off
We have known since we read their verdict form last Wednesday that jurors in the Zacarias Moussaoui terror conspiracy trial were a complex and contradictory lot. Eleven of them, for example, didn't consider Moussaoui "incarcerated" on 9/11 even though he was sitting in a Minnesota jail at that time. And despite clear language in the form that said it to be true, only five of them predicted that Moussaoui would remain in prison for the rest of his life even if he were spared a death penalty. They were like a box of chocolates, those jurors, and we just never knew what we were going to get.
What we are getting this morning is news from the the jury foreperson that only one juror stood between Moussaoui and a death sentence. According to Timothy Dwyer's piece in the Post, the dissenting juror "never explained his vote" and frustrated the other jurors by refusing to disclose the reasons behind his stand. Meanwhile, the Post reports, a juror who voted for life -- perhaps the one the foreperson is talking about, perhaps not -- responded by telling Dwyer that the panel "differed in the way we interpreted the things we saw and heard." Welcome to the jury system, folks, where getting 12 people to agree on what to order for lunch can sometimes prove fruitless.
I would take all of this back-and-forth with a huge dose of salt and in the end, of course, none of it matters. The foreperson complained to Dwyer that "it was as if a heavy cloud of doom had fallen over the deliberation room, and many of us realized that all our beliefs and our conclusions were being vetoed by one person." Drama aside, that's precisely how the jury system is supposed to work. If the government, even in a death penalty case involving an Al Qaeda bagman, can't convince every single juror to vote for death the government doesn't get its capital sentence. I can understand the foreperson's frustration that she didn't get to see her will imposed. But there are plenty of jurors in plenty of cases who don't get their way.
Another reason why I'm not entirely buying this post-hoc rationalization is that the foreperson could have gone to the judge during deliberations and notified the court and the lawyers that there was a jury who was refusing to deliberate. That would have certainly prompted the judge to push all of the jurors to deliberate and that might have flushed out the dissenter and perhaps fostered the dialogue that the foreperson wanted. Also, no one forced jurors to anonymously record their votes inside the jury room. And, finally, it's worth remembering that three jurors actually added to the "mitigating factors" on the verdict form that they believed Mousssaoui "had limited knowledge" of the 9/11 plans. That means, if you believe the foreperson, that two of those people still were willing to vote for death. And so now we know that the deliberations were as messy and as muddled as was the trial itself.
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Posted by: Rami | May 12, 2006 09:43 PM
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Posted by: David A. Ruhnke | May 13, 2006 09:49 AM
Posted by: Juror-USvsZM | May 13, 2006 08:16 PM
Posted by: Bill Giltner | May 13, 2006 10:59 PM
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