Death case against Moussaoui put on hold
Moussaoui's lawyers have called for a mistrial following revelations of misconduct by government lawyers.india Updated: Mar 14, 2006 13:06 IST
Lawyers for Zacarias Moussaoui, on trial for failing to prevent the Sep 11 attacks on the US, have called for a mistrial following revelations of misconduct by government lawyers.
US District Judge Leonie Brinkema declared a recess Monday while she considers the motion, which would spare Moussaoui the death penalty, media reports said.
It was the latest setback for the US government's case against Moussaoui, 37, the only suspect to be tried in connection with the suicide plane attacks on New York and Washington.
The turmoil came after prosecutors informed Brinkema over the weekend that a group of government witnesses had been illegally briefed on court proceedings by a US government lawyer, something the judge had banned in a pre-trial order, Bloomberg financial news agency reported.
"In all my years on the bench, I've never seen a more egregious violation of the rule about witnesses," Brinkema was quoted as saying.
Prosecutors sought death penalty for Moussaoui, a French citizen of Moroccan descent.
They allege he was aware of the plot when he was arrested on immigration charges three weeks before the attacks on New York and Washington.
Moussaoui pleaded guilty in April to six counts of conspiracy. Under US law, only a jury can hand down a death sentence. The choice for Moussaoui is between execution and life in prison.