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ALEXANDRIA, Va.—A federal jury rejected the death penalty for al-Qaida conspirator Zacarias Moussaoui on Wednesday and decided he must spend life in prison for his role in the deadliest terrorist attack in U.S. history. After seven days of deliberation, the nine men and three women rebuffed the government’s appeal for death for the only person charged in this country in the four suicide jetliner hijackings that killed nearly 3,000 people on Sept. 11, 2001. Three jurors decided Moussaoui had only limited knowledge of the Sept. 11 plot and three described his role in the attacks as minor, if he had any role at all. Moussaoui, as he was led out of the courtroom after the 15-minute hearing, said: “America, you lost. I won.” He clapped his hands as he was escorted away. The verdict came after four years of legal maneuvering and a six-week trial that put jurors on an emotional roller coaster and gave the 37-year-old Frenchman of Moroccan descent a platform to taunt Americans. The judge was to hand down the life sentence Thursday morning, bound by the jury’s verdict. The jury did not reach the unanimity required for a death sentence. The jurors did agree unanimously that Moussaoui “knowingly created a grave risk of death” for more than the intended victims of Sept. 11 and committed his acts with “substantial planning” – accepting two of the aggravating factors necessary for a death sentence. But they did not give sufficient weight to those findings to reach a death sentence, balancing them against mitigating factors offered by the defense. Jurors did not, however, accept defense arguments that Moussaoui was mentally ill. When the verdict was announced, Moussaoui showed no visible reaction and sat slouched in his chair, refusing to stand with his defense team. He had declined to cooperate with his court-appointed lawyers throughout the trial. When the jurors came into the room, a couple of them looked directly at Moussaoui but most did not, looking at the judge instead. They all wore sober expressions. One dark-haired young man shook his head no before the verdict was read. When the judge asked the jurors if their verdict was the same on all three counts, the forewoman, a high school math teacher, was joined by several other jurors in answering, “Yes.” The verdict was received with silence in the packed courtroom, where one row was lined with victims’ families. The jurors were divided on the 23 mitigating factors in the case, from whether the defendant’s role in the Sept. 11 attacks was only minor – three said his role “if any” was minor – and whether the Moroccan was subject to racism as a child – three said he was. The closest the jurors came to unanimity in finding mitigating factors was on two questions. Nine found that Moussaoui’s father had a violent temper and physically and emotionally abused his family. Nine also found that his unstable early childhood and dysfunctional family resulted in his leaving home.

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