Notebook: Moussaoui Own Worst Enemy

CBS News producer Beverley Lumpkin has been covering the sentencing trial of Zacarias Moussaoui.



Zacarias Moussaoui, any lawyer's worst nightmare as a client, insisted on taking the witness stand again in the second phase of his penalty trial, and, as in Phase One, managed to undercut his own lawyer's best efforts and to sabotage his own defense.

The defense began with an expert on corrections who was clearly called to assure any skeptical member of the jury that Moussaoui could be sentenced to life without their fearing he might escape or harm anyone.

James Aiken, with 30 years of experience in corrections, was quite forceful in testifying about how Moussaoui would be housed should the jury recommend he be sentenced to life in prison with no possibility of release.

Aiken's particular specialty is "classification" by which an inmate is assessed as to the level of security needed. He said Moussaoui would certainly receive the highest degree, being sent to Administrative Max, or what some call Super Max, the most secure prison in the federal system, located in Florence, Colo.

This is not only because of the nature of his crime, but also because if he were in the general prison population, other inmates might try to kill him.

"Other predators don't like what he did," Aiken said.

Aiken said that Moussaoui's behavior during his 4 1/2 year incarceration has been "fairly unremarkable" and that there is no indication of any "predator" behavior. His environment now is "sterile" and would continue to be so. He is isolated not only from the outside world but the prison world as well.

"He will never get lost in the crowd because he will never be in a crowd," Aiken said. "We are not preparing him for a return to society, not even preparing him for a return to the general population. What the mission is here is incapacitation."

He'll see his attorneys when the court orders, and he must see prison staff.

"There will be interactions but nobody's there to make friends with him," Aiken said.

He'll be checked periodically for physical and psychological condition, but, "he will deteriorate. He will deteriorate. Eventually he'll come to a realization" of what his future holds, "because time takes a toll on all of us … I've been in this business 30 years and I've seen them rot. They rot."

Aiken was so effective that prosecutor Novak went all out in a ferocious cross examination but ultimately the major points remained intact.

Moussaoui himself was then called to the witness stand by his long-suffering attorney Gerald Zerkin. During the first hour or so, there was a constant push and pull as Zerkin tried to show the jury how impossible Moussaoui has been as a client, how he has refused even to speak to most of the defense team for most of the case.

Moussaoui showed his irascible side but was cagey enough to avoid admitting that he has many times accused his lawyers of being a part of a conspiracy to kill him. Time and time again he wiggled out of responding directly to Zerkin's questions, and managed to insult him and another defense attorney, Edward MacMahon, with his rather fanciful recounting of case history. He basically maintained that he stopped dealing with his defense team because they denied him access to a Muslim attorney.

Zerkin nevertheless was able to indirectly explain what may have been mysteries to the jury, regarding the defendant's behavior, and the trajectory of the case.

  • Christine Lagorio

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