Judge OKs portions of Flight 93 voice recorder audio at trial

Thursday, September 13, 2007

NEW YORK -- The dramatic final moments of United Airlines Flight 93 that were captured on a cockpit voice recorder can be played for a jury at the first trial stemming from lawsuits filed after the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks, a judge ruled Wednesday.

U.S. District Judge Alvin K. Hellerstein ruled jurors can't listen to the entire tape but can hear portions that the hijacked passengers may have heard.

The relevant portions include a segment in which the voices of one or two of the apparent hijackers announce they have a bomb on board. He also said jurors could hear a four-minute-long stretch of the sounds of passengers trying to force their way into the cockpit and retake the airplane.

The recording has never been publicly released, though it was played at the trial of Zacarias Moussaoui in Virginia, and relatives of the victims were allowed to hear it in private.

Phone calls to lawyers on both sides weren't returned after the ruling.

Forty passengers and crew members died when the hijacked plane crashed into a Pennsylvania field.

Lawyers for the victims' families have argued that it's important for jurors to hear the sounds of the frightening final moments in order to determine damages.

Some 41 cases have been filed against airlines, plane manufacturers, security agencies and the owners of airports, blaming them for letting terrorists take control of planes.

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