A federal jury in Alexandria, Virginia has sentenced convicted Al-Qaida conspirator Zacarias Moussaoui to life in prison for his role in the 9-11 plot. The jury rejected prosecutors' request that Moussaoui receive the death penalty.
Today's verdict is a bitter pill for 9-11 families, who hoped that Moussaoui would be sentenced to death. But deliberations dragged out over seven days, and in the end, jurors were not convinced that Moussaoui's role as a conspirator--who was already in jail at the time of the 9-11 attacks--was deserving of capital punishment. I think most people can understand that, had it not been for an alert FBI agent, Moussaoui would have been the "20th hijacker" on 9-11, and attempted to fly a comandeered jet into an American target. Unfortunately, such logic was lost on the jurors in Alexandria. My heart goes out to the 9-11 families who believed that a death sentence for Moussaoui would bring some sense of closure and justice.
The real lesson of the Moussaoui trial, IMO, is the wisdom of keeping Al-Qaida terrorists out of our nation's court systems. The process of investigating, trying and convicting Zarcarias Moussaoui has, for the record, stretched out over four years and consumed millions of tax dollars. At times, the trial took on the appearance of low farce, with Moussaoui alternately affirming and denying his terrorist affiliations, firing his attorneys, and even attempting to represent himself. Multiply the Moussaoui trial by the number of Al-Qaida suspects facing legal action, and you'll get some idea of the quagmire that would result from giving terrorists full constitutional rights.
I'm guessing that Moussaoui will eventually wind up in the federal "Supermax" prison in Colorado, where he'll spend 23 hours a day locked in his cell. I would have much preferred to see him strapped to a gurney, awaiting that final "hot shot," but for a terrorist who seemed to relish the public spotlight--and the opportunity to make a mockery of our courts--the hard anonymity of the supermax may be a fitting punishment.