WASHINGTON -- Lawyers for Zacarias Moussaoui yesterday asked a US appellate court to rule out the death penalty for the nation's only Sept. 11 defendant.
With restrictions imposed on Moussaoui's access to Al Qaeda witnesses, the death penalty would be a cruel and unusual punishment in violation of the Constitution, the lawyers told the Fourth US Circuit Court of Appeals in Richmond, Va.
The government has vowed to seek Moussaoui's execution if he is convicted of participating in a terrorism conspiracy, along with the 19 terrorists who attacked the nation on Sept. 11, 2001.
The trial judge, reacting to the government's refusal to obey her orders on access to witnesses, had eliminated the possibility of imposing the death penalty.
Last month, a three-judge panel of the Fourth Circuit said the penalty was too severe. It restored the prosecution's right to seek Moussaoui's execution.