Moussaoui's Standby Lawyers File Sarcastic Brief; Ask Judge to Avoid Death Penalty

Standby counsel for alleged "20th hijacker" Zacarias Moussaoui filed an unusual and acerbic document Wednesday evening in the U.S. District Court in Alexandria. The document is in response to filings written by their own client-in-waiting.

Moussaoui had demanded that the standby lawyers — Frank Dunham, who still occasionally participates in the case despite declaring that he was no longer Moussaoui's lawyer after Judge Leonie Brinkema allowed Moussaoui to proceed with his own defense; Alan Yamamoto and Gerald Zerkin — provide him with all the discovery material the government had given them.

The material has already been given to him, the lawyers contended Wednesday evening, on well over 1,200 CD-ROMs that contain perhaps tens or hundreds of thousands of documents, video clips and photographs.

Because Moussaoui has opted to defend himself, the lawyers write in harsh and sarcastic language, he's got a big problem to solve as he seeks to sift through the CD-ROMs to determine what will be relevant to his defense. Tonight's filing reads like a kiss-off to a difficult client:

"Mr. Moussaoui by motion seeks documents from defense counsel, most of which he should already have on CD-ROM [although it might take him a year to find them]," they write.

"Delivering all discovery material provided to appointed counsel in printed format to Mr. Moussaoui at the Alexandria jail as Mr. Moussaoui requests would leave no room for Mr. Moussaoui in his cell or in the cell where he has his computer and might even consume the entire jail."

The material on the CD-ROMs isn't well organized, the lawyers say further, and it could take quite a lot of time for Moussaoui to find the material he needs. Most of the thousands upon thousands of documents on the CDs, they say, aren't even related to the case. It's Moussaoui's challenge to try to figure out what is.

"To distinguish these bits from the overwhelming majority of the material which falls into the category of 'none of the above' is an overwhelming task which requires the defense to look at everything, translate hundreds of documents and tapes in foreign languages, forensically examine hundreds of hard drives, and review more than 584 videotapes," the lawyers write.

"Some contain nothing more than 'Popeye' cartoons, but they all have to be reviewed to be sure there is not something more than 'Popeye' on them ..."

There are nuggets to be found, they say further. For example, of some 4,791 images on one CD, two are pictures of the e-mail receipt for 9/11 hijacker Khalid Almidhori's purchase of tickets for his fateful flight.

It's up to Moussaoui to find more nuggets like this one.

Also — standby counsel filed a legal brief urging Brinkema to turn back the government's efforts to seek the death penalty for Moussaoui. Their argument focused on the recent Supreme Court decision in Ring v. Arizona, in which the high court ruled that application of the death penalty is unconstitutional if a defendant is tried by a jury, but sentenced by a judge.