March 17, 2006
U.S. Lawyer in Terror Case Is Put on Leave
By NEIL A. LEWIS
WASHINGTON, March 16 —The government lawyer whose improper coaching of
witnesses and other actions have jeopardized the death penalty case against
Zacarias Moussaoui has been forced to take a leave from the Transportation
Security Administration, a department spokeswoman said Thursday.
The actions of the lawyer, Carla J. Martin may have wrecked the Justice
Department's efforts to execute Mr. Moussaoui, the only person charged in a
United States courtroom with responsibility for the deaths from the attacks
of Sept. 11, 2001. She has not yet offered an explanation for her behavior,
disclosed over the last few days, but her lawyer, in a statement Thursday,
said, "Ms. Martin has now been vilified by assertions from the prosecution
and assorted media pundits."
Her lawyer, Roscoe C. Howard Jr., said Ms. Martin was preparing a response.
"When her opportunity comes," Mr. Howard said, "her response will show a
very different, full picture of her intentions, her conduct and her tireless
dedication to a full trial."
The disclosure Monday that Ms. Martin had sent trial transcripts and e-mail
messages to seven government aviation officials listed as witnesses with
suggestions as to how they should testify threw the Moussaoui trial into
Judge Leonie M. Brinkema called it the worst case of a lawyer tampering with
witnesses she had experienced on the bench. Judge Brinkema also said Ms.
Martin had not told the truth when she told prosecutors that some of the
government officials had refused to talk to Mr. Moussaoui's court-appointed
The judge ruled Tuesday that the government would not be permitted to call
any of the witnesses who might have been tainted by Ms. Martin's conduct.
Her ruling dealt a potentially crippling blow to the government's efforts to
execute Mr. Moussaoui. Even though he was in jail at the time of the Sept.
11 attacks, prosecutors have argued that he bears responsibility for the
deaths that day because he lied to investigators who arrested him three
Judge Brinkema recessed the trial until Monday, and the prosecution has
asked her to reconsider her ruling, saying the sanction was excessive.
In a response Thursday, Mr. Moussaoui's lawyers reminded Judge Brinkema that
courts were obliged to be especially sensitive to problems that might deny a
fair trial to someone facing a death penalty.
Because Mr. Moussaoui has pleaded guilty to conspiracy charges in connection
with the Sept. 11 attacks, the sole question is whether he will be executed
or imprisoned for life.