Judge reaffirms defense psychiatrists' access to Moussaoui

Tuesday, August 3rd 2004, 4:14 pm
By: News On 6

ALEXANDRIA, Va. (AP) _ Rejecting government objections, a federal judge reaffirmed Tuesday that defense psychiatrists can have continued access to terrorism suspect Zacarias Moussaoui.

U.S. District Judge Leonie Brinkema, upholding an earlier ruling, said the prosecution would not be prejudiced by psychiatric interviews or observations of Moussaoui while his case remains on hold.

Brinkema has postponed resolution of pretrial disputes _ including Moussaoui's mental state _ until an appellate court decides a key issue: how the defendant can obtain information from interrogations of three al-Qaida prisoners.

Moussaoui is the only U.S. defendant charged with participating in a terrorist conspiracy that included the Sept. 11 attacks.

The government argued that any psychological testing at this time would make it difficult for government experts to evaluate Moussaoui's mental condition later. Brinkema responded that Moussaoui's lawyers have agreed there would be no testing.

Moussaoui's mental health could be a major factor if punishment options include the death penalty.

Prosecutors expressed concern that results could be skewed if mental health tests were given twice, once by defense doctors and later by prosecution experts.

Brinkema said the so-called ``practice effect'' of repeat testing only results from intelligence or memory tests that the defense agreed it would not perform at this time.

She added, ``The cooperation of the defendant in any mental health examination is questionable, and an actual trial date is at this point speculative.''