NEW YORK – A defense lawyer urged the judge in the embassy bombings case Monday to declare the jury deadlocked and spare his client the death penalty.
Jurors had returned from lunch with a note asking what they should do if they are not unanimously in favor of imposing the death penalty.
"In my view this is a deadlock and a verdict," lawyer Frederick Cohn said, urging a life sentence for his client in the penalty phase in the trial stemming from attacks on two U.S. embassies in Africa.
U.S. District Judge Leonard Sand refused the request, instead instructing the jury on what to do if it fails to reach a unanimous conclusion. Minutes later, the jury went home for the day.
The note from the jury questioned why "there is no room to indicate if the jury is not unanimous."
The judge wrote a note back saying a failure to find unanimously in favor of death on any count means Mohamed Rashed Daoud Al'Owhali, 24, of Saudi Arabia, will be sentenced to life in prison.
Al'Owhali rode the truck used in the Aug. 7, 1998, bombing of the U.S. embassy in Nairobi, Kenya, before leaping out and hurling stun grenades at guards.
He then ran for his life as the bomb-hauling truck exploded outside the embassy, killing 213 people and injuring thousands more. Eleven people were killed in a simultaneous bombing of the U.S. mission in Dar es Salaam, Tanzania.
Jurors' deliberations came on the day Timothy McVeigh was put to death by injection for killing 168 people in the 1995 bombing of the Oklahoma City federal building.
The embassy bombings judge had warned jurors earlier in the trial to ignore news developments in the McVeigh case.
The penalty proceeding for Al'Owhali will be followed by an identical hearing for co-defendant Khalfan Khamis Mohamed, 27, of Tanzania, who helped prepare the bomb used in Tanzania.
Wadih El-Hage, 40, of Arlington, Texas, and Mohamed Sadeek Odeh, 36, of Jordan, convicted of conspiracy by the same jury, face possible life in prison when they are sentenced.