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When accused terrorist Zacarias Moussaoui stands trial on charges that he was part of the conspiracy leading to the Sept. 11 attacks on America, Charles Freeman, a Muslim lawyer from Houston, could be at his side. Moussaoui on Monday asked the court to allow Freeman to help him question a government witness and to participate in his second arraignment on the Sept. 11 charges. Federal public defender Frank Dunham Jr. of Alexandria, Va., lead counsel on the court-appointed defense team that Moussaoui fired on April 22, says he secured clearance for six or eight Muslim attorneys to meet with Moussaoui at a federal detention center in Alexandria. Dunham says he believes Freeman — board certified in criminal law by the Texas Board of Legal Specialization and licensed to practice in Texas since 1985 — is the only one with whom Moussaoui agreed to meet. Freeman wrote a letter offering to help Moussaoui on a pro bono basis, Dunham says. “When Mr. Moussaoui saw Mr. Freeman wearing traditional Muslim dress and a beard, he agreed to see him,” Dunham says. The Houston Chronicle reported on June 15 that Freeman, 55, converted to Islam in 1988. Houston criminal-defense lawyer Edward Mallett, who taught Freeman at the University of Houston Law Center, says his former student now sports a long, gray beard and typically wears a skull cap. Freeman did not return two phone calls to his law office by presstime on June 20. If Freeman assists Moussaoui, his role most likely will be as stand-by counsel. At the April 22 hearing, Moussaoui informed U.S. District Judge Leonie Brinkema of the Eastern District of Virginia that he intended to defend himself against charges he conspired with the 19 known hijackers who crashed planes into the World Trade Center, the Pentagon and a field in Pennsylvania. Alleged to be the 20th hijacker, Moussaoui denounced his defense attorneys and announced his intentions to hire a Muslim attorney of his choosing to assist him. Brinkema granted Moussaoui the right to represent himself pro se on June 13. Dunham says that if Freeman decides he can act as stand-by counsel, he would be in a position to try the case if Moussaoui decides he doesn’t want to represent himself. On June 17, Brinkema issued an order naming Alexandria attorney Alan Yamamoto as a stand-by counsel. Yamamoto says Moussaoui has refused to meet with him. Under Brinkema’s order, Moussaoui has until Friday to choose a Muslim lawyer to work with him, Yamamoto says. Because this is a death penalty case, Moussaoui is allowed to have two attorneys standing by to assist him, Dunham says. Freeman would have little time to prepare for the trial if he takes the assignment. Jury selection is scheduled to begin on Sept. 30. At the June 13 hearing, Moussaoui said Freeman told him that Freeman has handled four capital cases, according to a June 15 report on CNN.com. In 1992, Freeman represented Francis Newton in the appeal of her conviction and death sentence for shooting to death her husband and two children, ages 7 and 21 months. In Newton v. State, the Texas Court of Criminal Appeals overruled Newton’s objection to the trial court’s decision to excuse a juror who made it clear that, because of religious beliefs regarding the death penalty, he would not take an oath to follow the law. The court also overruled Newton’s argument that imposing the death sentence is cruel and unusual punishment, particularly as applied to women. Larry Todd, spokesman for the Texas Department of Criminal Justice, says Newton remains on death row. Mark Pinckard, spokesman for the State Bar of Texas Office of Chief Disciplinary Counsel, says Freeman is in good standing with the Bar and doesn’t have any history of disciplinary actions. But Freeman apparently has been controversial at times. State District Judge Mike McSpadden, of Houston’s 209th District Court, alleges Freeman is disruptive in trials and says that he banned Freeman from his courtroom for 10 years beginning in 1992. “He shows his contempt for the whole system to the point he doesn’t help his client,” McSpadden alleges. McSpadden says Freeman tests the judge, tests opposing counsel, and tests the patience of jurors by making numerous improper objections and taking hours to pick a jury. Judge George Godwin, administrative judge for Harris County’s criminal district courts, says Freeman tends to “go on and on and on” when he makes an objection. “Substantively he gets there, but he takes an awful long time to do it,” says Godwin, who presides over the 174th District Court. The conflict between McSpadden and Freeman apparently heightened in 1992, when Freeman signed on to work on the case of Steve Butler, who was charged with sexual assault of a child. McSpadden says Butler asked to be castrated in lieu of a prison sentence, and the judge was going to allow the castration until the case took on a racial tone. The case was presented as a white judge trying to castrate a black defendant, McSpadden alleges. Freeman’s concern about racial issues has had an impact on him, says criminal-defense lawyer Stanley Schneider, a shareholder in Houston’s Schneider & McKinney who has known Freeman for years. “He stood up for what he believed in and was combative,” Schneider says. He says Freeman is a character, but adds, “He’s a very good man.” Mallett, a partner in Houston’s Mandell & Wright, says, “My sense of Charles’ career over the years is he is not about making money or about personal fame. My perception is he sees a cause and the cause might be the need for his religion to be respected among the religions of the world.” The Associated Press contributed to this report.

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