Judge Sentences Moussaoui to Die with a Whimper

Judge Leonie Brinkema got in the last word today, as she sentenced Zacarias Moussaoui to six consecutive life terms in prison.

U.S. Judge Leonie Brinkema sent Zacarias Moussaoui to prison for life Thursday, to “die with a whimper,” for his role in the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks. He declared: “God save Osama bin Laden — you will never get him.”


Brinkema firmly refused to be interrupted by the 37-year-old defendant as she disputed his claim that his life sentence meant America had lost and he had won. “Mr. Moussaoui, when this proceeding is over, everyone else in this room will leave to see the sun … hear the birds … and they can associate with whomever they want,” she said. She went on: “You will spend the rest of your life in a supermax prison. It’s absolutely clear who won.” And she said it was proper he will be kept away from outsiders, unable to speak publicly again. “Mr. Moussaoui, you came here to be a martyr in a great big bang of glory,” she said, “but to paraphrase the poet T.S. Eliot, instead you will die with a whimper.”

At that point, Moussaoui tried again to interrupt her, but she raised her voice and spoke over him. “You will never get a chance to speak again and that’s an appropriate ending.” [AP]

Appropriate, indeed.

Unfortunately, though, it is not at all clear who “won.” Moussaoui began this process having pled guilty and with life without parole as his best option. The only purpose for the trial was to elevate that sentence to execution. That was not accomplished.

FILED UNDER: Law and the Courts, Terrorism, ,
James Joyner
About James Joyner
James Joyner is Professor and Department Head of Security Studies at Marine Corps University's Command and Staff College. He's a former Army officer and Desert Storm veteran. Views expressed here are his own. Follow James on Twitter @DrJJoyner.


  1. I am not sure the entire situation can even be framed in terms of who “won” (indeed, to adopt that perspective is to subscribe to Moussaoui’s view of the events).

  2. Vnjagvet says:

    No, but read the jury’s answers to the special interrogatories in the verdict form propounded by the Court.

    These are, in essence, the “findings of fact” in the case. On the evidence presented, the trial brought out facts that should be the subject of press reports. This seems to me an accomplishment.

    Short of a military commission like the trial in ex parte Quirin over 60 years ago, this is about the best we could have expected.

    I think it points out the futility of using the criminal justice system to deal with enemy combatants which Moussaoui clearly was.

  3. Anon says:

    Who “won” depends on how you define “win”. In cases like this, I would feel little sense of victory in killing him. I will, however, feel a sense of victory thinking about him sitting in prison watching as we crush al-Queada.

  4. James Joyner says:

    Anon: That’s well and good. But, had that been the goal, we could have skipped the trial altogether.