Moussaoui Came Within One Vote of Death
Zacarias Moussaoui would be under death sentence were it not for one juror, who refused to reveal himself to his fellow jurors or present any arguments to sway them.
Only one juror stood between the death penalty and Zacarias Moussaoui and that juror frustrated his colleagues because he never explained his vote, according to the foreman of the jury that sentenced the al-Qaeda operative to life in prison last week. The foreman, a Northern Virginia math teacher, said in an interview that the panel voted 11 to 1, 10 to 2 and 10 to 2 in favor of the death penalty on three terrorism charges for which Moussaoui was eligible for execution. A unanimous vote on any one of them would have resulted in a death sentence.
The foreman said deliberations reached a critical point on the third day, when the process nearly broke down. Frustrations built because of the repeated 11 to 1 votes on one charge without any dissenting arguments during discussions. All the ballots were anonymous, and the other jurors were relying on the discussions to identify the holdout.
She said the jurors did not want any notes sent to the judge, so they decided that the whole group would raise anti-death penalty issues because that way the lone dissenter would not feel isolated or “ganged up on.” Deliberations continued, but the foreman said the lone dissenter still did not raise any issues. Three days later, jurors delivered their decision to Brinkema.
I don’t know what the usual procedure is in the federal courts but it strikes me as quite unusual that jury votes would be done by secret ballot. It would seem a fundamental part of being a juror to voice one’s vote and rationale in deliberation with one’s fellows.
Update: Charles Krauthammer has an eloquent piece on the nature of the death penalty and explaining why he would have voted to spare Moussaoui’s life. He concludes–independent of this latest revelation,
The Moussaoui verdict came out right, but the process was atrocious. The jury’s reasons for mitigation were risible. And the entire process was farcical, a four-and-a-half-year charade manipulated by a self-declared terrorist gratuitously given a world platform by those he was working to destroy. We need no more lessons in the obvious: Civilian court — with civilian procedures, civilian juries and civilian sensibilities — is not the place for those who make war upon us.
Of course, I would amend “the jury’s” to “the one or two jurors who voted against death,” since ten of the jurors voted for death on all three counts.