Is it crazy to want to kill a crazy terrorist wannabe? A jury in an Alexandria, VA courtroom evidently thought so, ignoring the prosecution's request to execute Zacarias Moussaoui for being the "20th hijacker" on September 11.
Dahlia Lithwick, a senior editor at Slate.com, published a terrific piece today on the jury's deliberations.
This case was about a conspiracy, about some factual connection, however attenuated, between Zacarias Moussaoui's jihadi heart and the events of 9/11. And although the government has steadfastly stood by its legal claim that it was enough for Moussaoui to have wanted to be on those planes on 9/11, enough for him to have delighted as those planes went down, the jurors recognized this afternoon that a conspiracy to aid in a terror plot requires more than just a bad heart, and more than mere willingness to participate in the next one.
This decision, which will doubtless bring with it some serious national fallout, is more subtle, and more courageous, than the prosecution itself. Acting as a check on a runaway state, these jurors refused to allow a government needing a scapegoat and a man wishing for martyrdom to stand in the way of the facts. These jurors understood that for this country to kill a terrorist for his ideas, hopes, and dreams is not much different than the terrorist's desire to come here and kill us for ours.
One of the best arguments against the death penalty is the phrase, "a government needing a scapegoat." Prosecutorial zeal doesn't just happen in the Third World or in communiest regimes. The lust for revenge, unfortunately, is a human preoccupation the world over. And is it possible for governments in the Free World to be wrongheaded or just plain wrong? Of course. It's just a matter of record. As the all-white juries that convicted Emmett Till and the ecclesiastical courst thgat condemned Joan of Arc.
By the way, three lashes of the scourge for that notorious cafeteria Catholic, former New York Mayor Rudy Giuliani. Failing in his attempts to inflame the jury toward a death verdict during the trial's penalty phase, he carped, "I certainly believe the verdict should have been death."
Let the bishops remember this blood lust the next time they are looking for politicians to bar from the Eucharist.
Image from http://www.usatoday.com/news/nation/2006-05-04-moussaoui_x.htm, by AP artist Dana Verkouteren, captioned, "An artist's rendering shows Moussaoui celebrating as he is taken from the courtroom after the verdict of life in prison was read on Wednesday." Barring a Barbara Walters interview, these will be Moussaoui's "famous last words" spoken in public. Ever.