Moussaoui Defense Attorney Speaks Out

This is a partial transcript of "The Big Story With John Gibson," May 3, 2006, that has been edited for clarity.

JOHN GIBSON, HOST: We are going to go now to Edward MacMahon, one of the defense attorneys for Zacarias Moussaoui. This is his first interview. That makes it an exclusive.

Mr. MacMahon, thank you very much for talking to us. So you consider life in prison to be a victory?

EDWARD MACMAHON, MOUSSAOUI DEFENSE ATTORNEY: How are you? Well, I actually have never looked at this case as an opportunity for a victory. I respect the jury's decision and in my judgment it's a fair determination. Whatever the jury had rendered, I would have come here and told you that I respect their decision.

GIBSON: Mr. MacMahon, I have two prosecutors sitting on the side of me and eventually they are going to start talking about how some of this doesn't add up. If the jury could find him eligible for death and then not give him death, is there a disconnect? Do you have an explanation for what appears to be a disconnect?

MACMAHON: Well, there is no disconnect. The jury in a federal capital case is entitled to make its decision on life or death regardless what it finds when it fills out that verdict form. They fill out the verdict form anyway they want and then they decide whether the person should be executed or not. That's just the way the federal death penalty system works.

GIBSON: The jury found that Zacarias — well, the jury rejected the prosecution argument that his silence doomed 3,000 people. Why do you think that was such a tenuous argument for the jury?

MACMAHON: Well, actually they accepted that argument. That's why we had the second phase of the case. It's a tenuous argument because none of us will ever know and none of us could ever know what would have happened had he actually said something different before Sept. 11. But we would have never had the second part of the case if they hadn't found for the government that that's how Moussaoui was responsible for death.

GIBSON: After your client left the courtroom, did you have a chance to speak to him? Do you have a reaction from him?

MACMAHON: I haven't spoken to Mr. Moussaoui in a long time and that's just fine with me.

GIBSON: Can you describe the conditions he will be living in shortly?

MACMAHON: Abysmal. He will be living in a small cell in an abandoned coal mine, essentially, in Colorado with almost no human interaction. And he is going to wake up with nobody to hate except himself. He is going to serve a long, long time in federal prison until the day he dies.

GIBSON: When he walked out he said, "America, you lost." This is not the only sort of outlandish thing he said in the courtroom. Are you convinced that he is not sane?

MACMAHON: Well, I'm not a doctor. I'm not going to judge his sanity or not. All I can tell you is that Moussaoui came to court and he is serving life in prison now. He is not going to be executed and don't forget, no matter what your guests tell you, Moussaoui came to our country to die and now he is just going to have to wait a very long time to get to do it and I think that's fine.

GIBSON: Did you have a fuller understanding of what happened on 9/11 in defending this case? Do you have an understanding of his connection to the 19 hijackers who did die, who did carry out the attacks? Can you explain those connections?

MACMAHON: Well, I mean the evidence in the case was he never had any contact whatsoever with any of the 19 hijackers. The only witness that testified that Moussaoui was involved in 9/11 was Moussaoui himself. As I told the jury in closing, he was their best witness. And the jury, it was up to them to decide whether or not he was telling the truth about it. But there was no evidence the government presented that we know of, of any contact between Moussaoui and any of the 19 hijackers in the United States, ever.

GIBSON: Mr. MacMahon, a lot of people — some people are saying that this proves our system is fair. I guess the implication is if he would have gotten the death penalty that would have proved something different. What's your view on that?

MACMAHON: I wouldn't have ever said that. If the jury had come back with a death sentence for Zacarias Moussaoui, I would have said the exact same thing: We respect the jury's verdict. This was a very fair trial. It took — I have been here in court since February 2, either picking a jury or otherwise. So he got a fair trial regardless of the outcome.

GIBSON: Edward MacMahon, a defense attorney for Zacarias Moussaoui, thank you very much for taking the time with us. Once again, defense attorney for Zacarias Moussaoui, the first interview since the verdict was rendered.

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