ALEXANDRIA, Va. – The judge in the Zacarias Moussaoui trial turned down a request from reporters from 14 news organizations Wednesday to ask jurors to discuss their verdict once the trial ends.
"I do not believe it is appropriate for the court to serve as an intermediary between the media and the jurors," U.S. District Judge Leonie Brinkema said in a letter to the news organizations. "Accordingly, I will not communicate your request to the jurors."
The reporters, backed by a half-dozen other news organizations, delivered a letter to the judge early Wednesday asking her to tell jurors — whose identities have remained secret — of the public's interest in knowing how the jury reached its verdict. They requested that the message be delivered as the jurors prepare to leave the courthouse at the end of the trial.
The reporters' letter offered willing jurors a place away from the courthouse for interviews and, for those concerned about their safety, the possibility of doing it off-camera.
The letter was signed by reporters from The Associated Press, Agence France Presse, Bloomberg News, CNN, Hearst Newspapers, the Los Angeles Times, the Minneapolis Star Tribune/McClatchy Newspapers, National Public Radio, Newsday, the New York Times, Radio France, Reuters, the Richmond Times-Dispatch and the Washington Post.
The jury ended its third day of deliberations Wednesday without reaching a decision on whether Moussaoui should be executed or spend life in prison for his role in the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks.
Brinkema has kept a tight lid on the jury, warning journalists against interviewing or photographing jurors while the trial is in progress. She assured jurors that their names will never be made public by the court.
On Monday, as she finished giving the jury instructions for deliberations, Brinkema warned jurors that reporters might try to contact them once the trial is over.
"Under the First Amendment of the Constitution, we cannot prevent the media from trying to interview you, except they don't know who you are," Brinkema told the jurors. "You are not required to speak. But I am not gagging you because I can't. You have got a First Amendment right to speak as well."