Moussaoui: 'I Am Al Qaeda'

Lady Gaga performs at the Glastonbury festival in Somerset, Friday June 26 2009. AP

Proclaiming "I am al Qaeda," terrorist conspirator Zacarias Moussaoui disrupted the opening of his sentencing trial Monday and was tossed out of court as selection began for the jurors who will decide whether he lives or dies.

An often volatile figure in his proceedings, Moussaoui was removed from the courtroom four separate times. "This trial is a circus," he declared. "I want to be heard."

His first outburst criticized his lawyers: "These people do not represent me." When the judge ordered Moussaoui to be quiet and he disobeyed, she ejected him from the courtroom for the first time, CBS News' Aleen Sirgany .

He disavowed his lawyers and pledged to testify on his own behalf in the trial that is set to begin March 6. Moussaoui was thrown out of the federal courtroom in suburban Washington three times for voicing his objections to the process.

Jury selection is expected to take a month — an extraordinarily long period but typical in this slow-motion case that has labored through the courts for more than four years. It's also not unreasonable, says CBSNews.com Legal Analyst Andrew Cohen (audio).

After jury selection, a penalty trial will determine whether the 37-year-old Frenchman of Moroccan descent, the only person in the U.S. charged in the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks, will be put to death or sentenced to life in prison.

He pleaded guilty last April to conspiring to fly planes into U.S. buildings but claims he had no role in the Sept. 11 plot.

Moussaoui, who has vowed to fight for his life, entered the 10th-floor courtroom wearing a green jumpsuit, the word "prisoner" in white on his back. Short and slight with full dark beard, he calmly looked around at the prospective jurors as he entered.

The potential jurors — most of them white, from their 20s through their 50s or 60s — showed no reaction to his interruptions.

Brinkema told the jury pool: "If any of you feel that outburst or the way he conducted himself might affect the way in which you would go about judging this case, you need to clearly put that statement on the jury questionnaire."

Moussaoui's first outburst, a minute into the proceedings in the heavily guarded courtroom, became the pattern for the day as each new group of prospective jurors was brought in to answer an extensive questionnaire on their religious beliefs, cultural biases, group activities and much more. In afternoon appearances, he repeatedly vowed to testify.

"For four years I have waited," he said. "I will tell them the truth I know."
  • Lloyd Vries

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