The 12-member panel began it deliberations after hearing closing arguments in the dramatic trial in which the prosecution argued Moussaoui had “lied with lethal intent” to investigators to conceal the impending attack.
Prosecutor David Novak admonished the jury to “hold accountable the person who was brazen enough to look you in the face and tell you how proud he was to participate in that horrible, horrible crime.”
But in a sign of the sharp differences raised in the controversial case, Moussaoui’s court-appointed defence said the 37-year-old Frenchman was only involved “in his dreams” in the 2001 terror strikes on New York and Washington.
In lengthy instructions to the jury before they withdrew, Judge Leonie
Brinkema reminded them to act as impartial judges of the evidence presented in the three and a half-week trial. “You don’t represent those affected by 9-11,” she said.
In the one-hour closing statements, there was no letup in the prosecution’s insistence that the Al-Qaeda conspirator, who was arrested in August 2001, could have prevented the hijacked plane strikes on New York and Washington the next month.
“Zacarias Moussaoui came to this country to kill as many Americans as he could. In this trial you have heard from the defendant himself that is exactly what he did,” prosecutor David Raskin told the jury.
“He was supposed to fly the fifth plane into the White House on September 11,” Mr Raskin added, referring to Moussaoui’s own surprise testimony on Monday.
Mr Raskin alleged that Moussaoui, who earlier pleaded guilty to conspiracy charges linked to the attacks, had “lied with lethal intent” prior to the attacks, and so was complicit in the deaths that resulted.
“He chose Al-Qaeda and Osama bin Laden, and as a result of that 2,971 people are dead and that is what this case is about.”
But Edward MacMahon, the lead member of the defence team that has been renounced by Moussaoui, argued that he had no links to the September 11 assault.
“Moussaoui was not involved in the 9/11 plot, no matter what he says,” Mr MacMahon said.
“The largest investigation in US history has produced absolutely no evidence of Moussaoui being in contact with any of these people,” he said of the hijackers.
“The plot went forward without a hitch and Moussaoui was never selected other than in his dreams to be involved,” added the counsel.
Mr MacMahon said that Moussaoui is trying to manipulate the US justice system and the jury by writing a role for himself in history.
The jury will decide whether Moussaoui is eligible for the death penalty. If it decides he is eligible, new hearings will start to decide on whether he should be executed.