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BREAKING NEWS ~ Judge confirms Moussaoui life sentence

[JURIST] US District Judge Leonie Brinkema [official profile] has accepted the jury's recommendation [JURIST report] and sentenced Zacarias Moussaoui [JURIST news archive] to life in prison without the possibility of release. After determining that Moussaoui was eligible for the death penalty [JURIST report] during the first phase of his sentencing trial [case docket], the jury recommended [verdict form, PDF] Wednesday that Moussaoui be sentenced to life in prison rather than face the death penalty.

Moussaoui pleaded guilty [JURIST report] last year to conspiracy charges [indictment] in connection with the Sept. 11 terror attacks [JURIST news archive]. In reaching its recommendation on Moussaoui's sentence, the jury determined that Moussaoui did commit the crimes in "an especially heinous, cruel, or depraved manner in that it involved torture or serious physical abuse to the victim or victims." Three jurors found that Moussaoui had limited knowledge of the Sept. 11 attack plans and that he played a minor, if any, role in Sept. 11. Moussaoui is the first and only person convicted in the US in connection with the terror attacks. US Attorney General Alberto Gonzales said Thursday that "justice has been served" in the Moussaoui case and that he respected the jury's decision [Reuters report] to recommend life in prison. Gonzales also said that federal prosecutors will decide on a "case by case basis" whether to proceed to trial on Sept. 11-related charges against other terror suspects in US custody.

11:48 AM ET - Brinkema sentenced Moussaoui to serve six life sentences at a maximum security prison in Colorado, and told him that "it's absolutely clear who won," referring to Moussaoui's outburst Wednesday that the jury's decision not to impose the death penalty meant America lost. Brinkema said "Mr. Moussaoui, when this proceeding is over, everyone else in this room will leave to see the sun ... hear the birds ... and they can associate with whomever they want.... Mr. Moussaoui, you came here to be a martyr in a great big bang of glory ... but to paraphrase the poet T.S. Eliot, instead you will die with a whimper." Meanwhile, French officials said Thursday that they would consider asking the US to transfer Moussaoui, a French citizen, to France to serve the sentence but said that a final determination has not yet been made. AP has more.

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