Witness tampering in Moussaoui case?

Shocking if true:

WASHINGTON (AP) – Lawyers for two airlines being sued for damages by 9/11 victims prompted a federal lawyer to coach witnesses in the trial of al-Qaida conspirator Zacarias Moussaoui so the government’s death penalty case would not undercut their defense, victims’ lawyers allege.

The victims’ lawyers, Robert Clifford and Gregory Joseph, claim that one of the airline lawyers forwarded a transcript from the first day of the Moussaoui trial to Transportation Security Administration lawyer Carla J. Martin.

In violation of an order by Moussaoui trial judge Leonie Brinkema, Martin forwarded that day’s transcript to seven federal aviation officials scheduled to testify later in the sentencing trial of the 37-year-old Frenchman.

Martin’s e-mailing of the transcript and her efforts to shape their testimony prompted Brinkema to toss out half the government’s case against Moussaoui as contaminated beyond repair.

The contacts between lawyers for United and American Airlines and Martin were detailed in a legal brief filed on Moussaoui’s behalf Thursday. That brief contained a March 15 letter from Clifford and Joseph complaining about Martin’s actions to U.S. District Judge Alvin Hellerstein, who is presiding over the civil damage case in New York.

They wrote Hellerstein that the government’s opening statement in the Moussaoui case “took the position that the hijackings were completely preventable and that gate security measures could have been implemented to prevent the 9/11 hijackers from boarding the planes had security been on the look out for short-bladed knives and boxcutters.”

“This stands in stark contrast to the position that has been repeatedly articulated by counsel to the aviation defendants in the September 11 actions.”

Because that government position could have “devastating” impact on the airlines’ defense in the civil suit, American Airlines’ lawyer forwarded the transcript to a United Airlines lawyer who forwarded it to Martin, Clifford and Joseph wrote. As proof, they cited March 7 e-mails that they provided to Hellerstein but which were not immediately available here.

“The TSA lawyer then forwarded the transcripts and sent multiple e-mails to government witnesses in a clear effort to shape their testimony in a manner that would be beneficial to the aviation defendants” in the civil suit, they wrote.

They then quoted a March 8 e-mail Martin sent to one of the government’s Moussaoui witnesses that said:

“My friends Jeff Ellis and Chris Christenson, NY lawyers rep. UAL and AAL respectively in the 9/11 civil litigation, all of us aviation lawyers, were stunned by the opening. The opening has created a credibility gap that the defense can drive a truck through. There is no way anyone could say that the carriers could have prevented all short-bladed knives from going through. (Prosecutor) Dave (Novak) MUST elicit that from you and the airline witnesses on direct”

I’d like to say that this trial has become a big joke but will refran from doing so because jokes are supposed to be funny. This isn’t.

Dafydd at Big Lizards summarizes the AP story and includes a lengthy analysis of what he thinks this should mean for the Moussaoui trial.

Read more via Below The Beltway, Wizbang, Flopping Aces

PM Update: Moussaoui Judge to Allow Prosecution to Present More Evidence

ALEXANDRIA, Va. β€” The federal judge in the death penalty trial of Al Qaeda conspirator Zacarias Moussaoui accepted a government compromise Friday that will allow prosecutors to present new witnesses about aviation security.

Judge Leonie Brinkema in a written order said prosecutors could present exhibits and a witness or witnesses if they are untainted by contact with Transportation Security Administration lawyer Carla J. Martin, cited by Brinkema for misconduct earlier this week when the judge decided to exclude all aviation security evidence.

“The government’s proposed alternative remedy of allowing it to call untainted aviation witnesses or otherwise produce evidence not tainted by Ms. Martin has merit,” Brinkema wrote.

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