Jurors will be given an emotional ride back to Sept. 11 at Moussaoui trial, government says

Friday, August 9th 2002, 12:00 am
By: News On 6

ALEXANDRIA, Va. (AP) _ Cockpit voice recordings. Videotapes of the burning World Trade Center from every height and angle. Family pictures of Sept. 11 victims.

Jurors in the trial of accused terrorism conspirator Zacarias Moussaoui will be given an emotional ride back to Sept. 11, prosecutors made clear in court filings Thursday.

``The government intends to introduce relevant portions of the videotapes and photographs during both the guilt and penalty phases to describe the murders at the WTC (World Trade Center),'' prosecutors said.

``This will be particularly important during the penalty phase,'' when prosecutors plan to seek the death penalty. Subject to a judge's OK, the government said it would introduce photographs of the victims, numbering more than 2,800 from the New York attacks alone, to show the jury ``who was murdered instead of merely hearing statistics.''

In addition, prosecutors plan to play cockpit voice recordings from United Airlines Flight 93 before it crashed in Pennsylvania. Passengers apparently tried to wrest control of the aircraft from hijackers.

Jurors also will hear the cockpit recordings from an executive jet that tracked Flight 93 on Sept. 11, according to written proposals subject to approval by U.S. District Judge Leonie Brinkema.

An official for NetJets, a New Jersey-headquartered company that sells shares in private business aircraft, confirmed that the plane tracking Flight 93 belonged to the company.

The official, who asked not to be identified by name, said the company was asked not to comment on the Sept. 11 flight but would not say who made the request.

Moussaoui, 34, a French citizen, is scheduled to go on trial Sept. 30 and has been given approval to represent himself. Nonetheless, a court-appointed ``standby'' defense team has been asked to prepare for trial and requested a two-month postponement Thursday because of the huge volume of documents.

In the latest handwritten motion released by the judge, Moussaoui requested access to the ``standby'' lawyers' secure Internet site, which contains their trial preparation work. The lawyers favor giving Moussaoui access, without allowing him to connect to any other Internet address.

``Grand nanny Leonie Brinkema must order Uncle Sam to leave Moussaoui surf the secure internet,'' Moussaoui said. ``Cave in Afghanistan are not equipped with ... internet connection and laptop so the U.S. government should be able to manage the traffic.''

Moussaoui will have an opportunity to reply to the use of videotapes and still photographs.

Edward MacMahon, one of the court-appointed lawyers, questioned the fairness of the strategy.

``I'm hopeful there's some limitation on how much of this evidence they'll be allowed to be put on,'' he said in an interview. ``The loss is very real and gut-wrenching. But it doesn't change the fact that Moussaoui was in prison Sept. 11 and had been there almost a month.''

Moussaoui was taken into custody in August for immigration violations after employees at a Minnesota flight school became suspicious of his conduct.

Last month, Moussaoui tried to plead guilty to conspiracy to commit terrorism. Moussaoui withdrew his plea after Brinkema refused to accept it without an admission of complicity in the attacks.

Prosecutors asked the judge to allow a veteran police detective to introduce photographs and videotapes of the New York attacks, saving the need to call numerous witnesses. Detective James Wheeler of the Port Authority of New York and New Jersey was at the twin towers when the hijacked planes crashed into them and worked to save himself and rescue others.