Published April 18, 2006
ALEXANDRIA, Va. – Zacarias Moussaoui's behavior is abnormal even for an Al Qaeda terrorist, a defense psychologist testified Tuesday.
Xavier Amador diagnosed the Sept. 11, 2001, conspirator with paranoid schizophrenia after observing his actions and writings since 2002. He cited delusional beliefs firmly held by Moussaoui, including his conviction that President Bush will free him from prison and that his court-appointed lawyers are in a conspiracy to kill him.
He also contrasted Moussaoui's erratic behavior with that of several other Al Qaeda terrorists who have been tried in U.S. criminal court.
The defense introduced affidavits filed by lawyers for Ramzi Yousef, serving life in prison for the 1993 attack on the World Trade Center, and other Al Qaeda members. All the lawyers said their clients actively assisted their defense and did not believe their lawyers were working against them.
"What we see with this individual is unique to him," Amador said. "It's not Al Qaeda."
On cross-examination, prosecutor David Novak suggested that Moussaoui's behavior is indeed consistent with other Al Qaeda terrorists. He noted that Yousef represented himself for an extended period of time and that another Al Qaeda terrorist tried to take his lawyers hostage.
Amador said he would need more information about those incidents to determine if his opinion would change.
Amador was also forced to acknowledge that he gave several media interviews about the case despite a court order barring such interviews.
Amador said his diagnosis was confirmed after an April 2005 encounter with Moussaoui in which the defendant repeatedly spit water on him — and appeared to be talking to himself.
Amador said the visit lasted for about an hour, and Moussaoui spent much of the time telling Amador to go away. Amador observed Moussaoui talking to himself in a manner that did not appear to be prayer, the witness said.
When Amador refused to go away, he said, Moussaoui spit water at him more than a dozen times, then resigned himself to Amador's presence.
Moussaoui then complained that guards used excessive force in taking him from his Alexandria jail cell to a deposition at the federal courthouse. And he told Amador that Bush would release him from prison.
Government experts have reached conclusions that diverge from Amador's statements, and are expected to testify later this week in rebuttal.
Moussaoui mocked the testimony about his alleged schizophrenia. He said "beautiful terrorist mind" as he was led from court during a recess, referring to the movie "A Beautiful Mind," about a mathematician with schizophrenia.
After a second break, he said, smiling broadly, "Crazy or not crazy, that is the question."
Amador cited other evidence of Moussaoui's paranoia, including his belief that an electric fan that he picked up from the curb outside his Oklahoma apartment in 2001 was bugged by the FBI.
Moussaoui previously said that he believes all Americans, including his lawyers, want him killed. And he acknowledged in testimony that he was concerned the fan may have been bugged, but he was not convinced of it.
Amador said that Moussaoui, in his testimony, was trying to "normalize" his paranoid beliefs.
While prosecutors' experts have been able to examine Moussaoui, he refused to cooperate with Amador or any other defense expert.
Amador based his diagnosis largely on conclusions of other mental-health professionals and an analysis of Moussaoui's actions and writings over years. These included the numerous rambling and often insulting legal motions that Moussaoui filed during 18 months when he represented himself.
Moussaoui's defense lawyers, who are at odds with their client, say he is delusional and cite his testimony last week about a dream that Bush will free him from prison.
Jurors must decide whether Moussaoui should be executed or serve life in prison without parole, their only options since Moussaoui has already pleaded guilty to conspiring with Al Qaeda to fly planes into U.S. buildings.
Moussaoui is the only person charged in this country in the Sept. 11 attacks. The jury deciding his fate has already declared him eligible for the death penalty by determining that his actions caused at least one death that day.
Even though Moussaoui was in jail in Minnesota at the time, the jury ruled that lies he told federal agents a month before the attacks kept authorities from identifying and stopping some of the hijackers.