Moussaoui Trial: Jury Expected To Deliberate Today

Jurors in the trial of Zacarias Moussaoui are expected to begin deliberations Wednesday to determine whether the al Qaeda operative should face the death penalty for lying to federal agents about the 9/11 attacks.

U.S. District Judge Leonie Brinkema has given federal prosecutors and Moussaoui's defense team an hour each to summarize their cases starting at 1 p.m. ET. Following a brief prosecution rebuttal, Brinkema will instruct the jury.

The jury must struggle with the question whether lives may have been saved if Moussaoui had conveyed truthful information when he was questioned before the attacks.

Moussaoui pleaded guilty 11 months ago to all six terrorism conspiracy charges against him, and until he testified during the trial, he maintained he had no advanced knowledge of or role in the September 11 plot.

But Monday, Moussaoui told the jury he had known before the attacks of the plot to target the twin towers of the World Trade Center, information he withheld from the federal agents who interrogated him three weeks before September 11, 2001.

He said his "dream" to crash a plane into the White House was intended to come true on September 11.

The court heard Tuesday that Moussaoui did not want to spend the rest of his life in the super-maximum security federal prison in Florence, Colorado, the only option if he does not receive the death penalty.

"He stated it was different to die in battle like an F-16 pilot than dying in jail," FBI agent Jim Fitzgerald testified. Fitzgerald was recalled to the stand Tuesday to recount Moussaoui's effort last month to testify for the prosecution.

"He offered to testify against himself for the government," Fitzgerald said. At that time, Moussaoui asked only for better jail conditions and did not ask that the death penalty option be dropped from the case.

The government offered no deal, Fitzgerald said, in part because Moussaoui refused to testify against other al Qaeda members.

Before his arrest on an immigration violation, Moussaoui urgently sought Boeing 747 simulator training. The suspicions he aroused at the Minnesota school prompted managers there to tip the FBI.

"This case changed dramatically with Mr. Moussaoui's testimony," Judge Brinkema told the attorneys Tuesday outside the jury's presence.

"Seven-forty-seven to paradise! God, curse America," Moussaoui said as he followed the jury from court Tuesday.

Moussaoui's trial has been divided into two parts. In the first part, now ending, the jury must answer only whether Moussaoui's false statements to federal agents following his August 2001 arrest contributed to any of the nearly 3,000 deaths caused by the 9/11 attacks.

Over the past three weeks, prosecutors contended Moussaoui's lying about why he was in flight school, covering up his associates and financial sources, and refusing access to his belongings, which held clues to both, furthered the conspiracy to hijack and crash planes into prominent buildings.

Moussaoui's lawyers -- whom the defendant says he does not trust -- have argued that other 9/11 conspirators didn't have faith in Moussaoui, and that no matter what he may have told federal agents, his information could not have been used to stop the attacks.

If the jury unanimously finds Moussaoui's lies resulted in deaths, the trial will proceed to a second part, when relatives of 9/11 victims will be heard along with testimony about Moussaoui's mental health.

The jury is expected to receive the case late Wednesday afternoon. The first order of business will be choosing by lot which five jurors will be separated as alternates. The remaining 12 will deliberate.