WASHINGTON – Terrorism suspect Zacarias Moussaoui (search) lost a bid Wednesday to have the full 4th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals review two issues — witness access and the death penalty — that have delayed a trial.
Moussaoui lawyers, Frank Dunham Jr. and Edward MacMahon Jr., said they have not decided whether to ask the Supreme Court to grant Moussaoui direct access to three Al Qaeda (search) prisoners and bar the government from seeking the death penalty.
Before the ruling, the lawyers notified the trial judge in the case that they would file such an appeal if a rehearing was denied. A petition to the high court could cause additional delay in a case that has lasted for almost three years.
The Richmond, Va.-based appellate court said none of the judges requested a rehearing of those issues, which a three-judge panel already had ruled on.
If there is no further appeal, U.S. District Judge Leonie Brinkema (search) in Alexandria, Va., could resolve those issues and set a trial date for the only U.S. defendant accused of participating in the Al Qaeda conspiracy of Sept. 11, 2001.
Moussaoui's lawyers have argued — unsuccessfully — for direct access to the high-ranking captives who have told interrogators that Moussaoui had no role in the Sept. 11 attacks. At other times, the prisoners have made conflicting statements about Moussaoui's mission.
The court-appointed defense team also has tried, without success, to have the appellate court bar the government from seeking the death penalty if Moussaoui is convicted.
Moussaoui, a French citizen, is charged with participating in a broad terrorism conspiracy that included the Sept. 11 airplane hijackings. An acknowledged member of Al Qaeda, he has said in court papers he was to be part of a later operation.
In its previous ruling, the appellate panel ordered Brinkema to work with lawyers to give Moussaoui access to the witnesses' interrogation statements and to permit defense lawyers to submit additional questions. The panel also allowed the government to seek the death penalty.
Moussaoui, who was arrested a month prior to the attacks when he aroused suspicions at a flight school, was indicted in December 2001.