Defence lawyers introduced mitigating evidence designed to portray Moussaoui as the product of a broken home, rejected by others as a “dirty Arab” and traumatised as he was bumped from one orphanage to another in France.
Jan Vogelsang, a clinical social worker from Greeneville, South Carolina, called as an expert witness after interviewing 51 of Moussaoui’s acquaintances, shed light on the youth of the future Al-Qaeda plotter.
Moussaoui boasted a sharp sense of humor and was a friendly, smiling child, who triumphed over apparent learning difficulties by earning a high school diploma, a technical degree and a master’s degree from a London university, she said.
He grew up in a “violent, chaotic and very, very emotional” home and he and three siblings were often sent to orphanages during upheavals as the abusive marriage of his Moroccan immigrant father Omar and mother Aicha deteriorated.
Prodded by defence lawyer Gerald Zerkin, Vogelsang suggested that children from such environments grow up robbed of the life skills and stability needed in normal life.
The would-be Al-Qaeda suicide pilot, facing death or life in prison, often appeared amused at the defence case, shaking his head several times. After court recessed for lunch he shouted “Zerkin! A lot of American B.S.!”
Moussaoui’s sisters Jamila and Nadia both now suffer from serious delusions or schizophrenic tendencies, and cannot function without medication, Vogelsang said.
Nadia often becomes convinced she has turned to stone, and cannot move, while Omar, Moussaoui’s abusive father, is in a psychiatric hospital in Nanterre, close to Paris, too heavily sedated to be interviewed.
Only Moussaoui’s brother, Abd Samad, and mother Aicha appear to have escaped mental illness, the expert witness for the defence said, adding that she had neither diagnosed nor interviewed Moussaoui himself.
Moussaoui, the court heard, had a girlfriend for six years during his teens, and was deeply offended when rejected by her father by virtue of his race.
“Her father would not allow him into their home because he was viewed as a ‘dirty Arab'” Ms Vogelsang said.
Though often disruptive in class, Moussaoui was popular among friends, she said. “He was known for his sense of humor, he could be very funny.”
Defence lawyers earlier renewed what many observers say is a futile bid to spare Moussaoui from execution, after he glorified in the destruction of September 11 from the witness stand last week.
Earlier in the trial Moussaoui had claimed he would have flown a fifth hijacked jet on September 11, 2001, into the White House, had he not already been arrested.
The day opened after the judge called an unexpected recess to convene a closed session but gave no explanation.
Moussaoui, facing a possible death sentence for his role in the September 11, 2001 attacks on New York and Washington, was allowed to attend the session which lasted around half an hour.
The jury already has ruled that Moussaoui is eligible for execution,
accepting prosecution arguments that his “lies” concealed plans for the September 11 attacks.
They must now decide whether the sentence should be carried out on the only man tried in the United States in connection with the strikes which killed nearly 3,000 people.
The Al-Qaeda plotter last Thursday said he had “no remorse” for the September 11 strikes and dismissed grief-stricken survivors as “disgusting.”
“It make my day,” Moussaoui replied when asked for his reaction to the heartbreak of families who lost loved ones.
Federal prosecutor Robert Spencer was also able to get Moussaoui to deny that he had any kind of mental infirmity — dealing a blow to the defence.