Description of first crash rivets trial of Moussaoui
To avoid inflaming the jury, attorneys agreed not to play actual recordings of the flight.
ALEXANDRIA, Va. (AP) -- Reading from radiophone transmissions, a federal prosecutor transfixed the courtroom at Zacarias Moussaoui's sentencing trial Tuesday with a minute-by-minute account of Al-Qaida's hijacking of American Airlines' Flight 11 and the plane's journey into the north tower of the World Trade Center on Sept. 11, 2001.
"We are flying low. We are flying very very low. We are flying way too low," flight attendant Amy Sweeney told ground controllers who had asked at 8:44 a.m. where the plane was. Then a few seconds' pause, and finally: "Oh my God, we are way too low!" The phone went dead at 8:46 a.m. as the Boeing 767 jetliner hit the tower in the first of four crashes by hijacked jetliners that day.
Moussaoui, the confessed Al-Qaida conspirator who is facing a life-or-death decision, was as electrified as the jury and the audience by Assistant U.S. Attorney David Raskin's reading of the transcripts.
Leaving the courtroom for a recess moments later, the 37-year-old Frenchman of Moroccan descent surged from his chair, pumped his right fist in the air and shouted: "Allah Akbar! God curse America! Bless Osama bin Laden!"
He usually mutters these invocations when leaving court.
The actual audio recordings of radiophone calls by flight attendants on Flight 11 have been played in public before. But to avoid inflaming the jury at this sentencing trial, prosecutors and defense attorneys agreed instead to read an account of the flight, including major sections of the phone call transcripts.
Nevertheless, the reading by Raskin riveted the jury and audience -- all the more so because it came after two hours of mind-numbing testimony by FBI agent James M. Fitzgerald about how the bureau tracked the hijackers after Sept. 11.
The point of Fitzgerald's long description of the pre-attack behavior of the Sept. 11 hijackers was to show how similarly they acted.
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