Moussaoui Trial In Jeopardy
An angry federal judge called a recess Monday to consider whether government violations of her rules against coaching witnesses should remove the death penalty as an option in the sentencing trial of confessed al Qaeda conspirator Zacarias Moussaoui. Brinkema said seven potential government and defense witnesses may have been tainted after receiving e-mails from a Transportation Security Administration lawyer with trial transcripts, in violation of her order. She said there's a very real possibility the witnesses were coached. "An attorney for the TSA ... egregiously breached that order," she told jurors before excusing them.

Of the seven witnesses, three were to testify for the government and four were potential defense witnesses. Brinkema wanted to hear Tuesday from the seven witnesses and from the attorney who contacted them to help her decide whether to throw out the government's case. If she does, Moussaoui would escape the possibility of execution and be sentenced to life in prison without chance of parole.

Even prosecutor [David] Novak conceded that the witness coaching was "horrendously wrong."

According to descriptions by the lawyers in court, it appeared that [Carla Martin] a female Transportation Security Administration attorney who had attended closed hearings in the case went over with the four coming witnesses the opening statements at the trial, the government's strategy and even the transcript of the questioning of an FBI agent on the first day. "She was at the Classified Information Act procedures hearing and she should have known it was wrong," Novak said.
Posted by: Seafarious 2006-03-13