Published January 13, 2015
The first person charged as an accomplice in the Sept. 11 terror attacks wants his upcoming conspiracy trial broadcast across the nation.
Zacarias Moussaoui asked a judge Friday to allow cameras into the courtroom this fall. Cameras are normally banned from federal courtrooms, although the Oklahoma City bombing trial was shown on closed-circuit TV to the victims' families.
"Mr. Moussaoui recognizes that the American criminal justice system will be on display for the entire world as the trial of this action proceeds," said a defense motion supporting a proposal by Court TV to show the proceedings.
Televising the trial would "add an additional layer of protection to see these proceedings are fairly conducted," his lawyers argued in the motion.
The government was expected to respond later Friday with its recommendation.
Moussaoui's motion asked the judge not to permit televising any pretrial proceedings. Jury selection is slated to begin Sept. 30, with opening arguments to begin about two weeks later.
The defense expressed concern that anything said during pretrial arguments and during jury selection could prejudice potential jurors who may "become exposed to information that will not be admissible at trial."
The defense motion also said that if the jury wasn't sequestered — confined after trial hours to a hotel or secure location to avoid publicity — the cable network should be limited to live coverage. They asked the judge to prohibit replaying of the tape when jurors might be able to watch it.
"There is a risk that a nonsequestered jury might, despite the order of the court, see testimony that has already been given in court and thus give undo weight to the replayed testimony," the lawyers argued.
Court TV has asked U.S. District Judge Leonie Brinkema for permission to broadcast the trial.
While many state courts permit the broadcasting of trials, federal rules explicitly prohibit TV cameras in courtrooms.
Lawyers for Court TV, which also asked to broadcast pretrial proceedings, have argued that prohibition is unconstitutional.
A hearing on Court TV's request is scheduled for next week.
Moussaoui is charged with conspiring with Usama bin Laden, the hijackers and others to carry out the Sept. 11 attacks. He faces six counts of conspiracy. Should Moussaoui be convicted, four of those counts could carry the death penalty.
The government has not yet decided whether to pursue the death penalty.
Congress allowed families of the Oklahoma City bombing victims to watch Timothy McVeigh's trial on a closed-circuit broadcast.
Sen. George Allen, R-Va., has introduced similar legislation for the Moussaoui trial and the families of the Sept. 11 victims. The bill has passed the Senate and will be considered by the House.
Four federal circuit courts have found constitutional the federal edict preventing the broadcast of criminal trials. But those cases were heard between 1983 and 1988, and technology has since evolved so as to make cameras much less disruptive, Court TV has argued.
Since its 1991 inception, Court TV has televised more than 700 trials and judicial proceedings, including the O.J. Simpson murder trial.
The Associated Press contributed to this report.