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Prosecutor's office begins interviews in Moussaoui case
WASHINGTON -- Prosecutors of an accused hijacking accomplice have begun sounding out families of Sept. 11 victims on how they feel about the death penalty, and already they are getting divergent opinions.
"I want justice, not revenge," says C. Lee Hanson, against capital punishment despite losing three family members. Garnet "Ace" Bailey's family is for the death penalty.
Carie Lemack, 26, of Framingham, Mass., came at the question differently. If Zacarias Moussaoui is convicted, she wants the court to keep his wishes in mind, and do the opposite.
If he wants to die, she wants him condemned to life.
Lemack said a prosecutor and an FBI agent asked her views Monday in one of the initial interviews with family members of the victims. In New York City, Boston and the Arlington, Va. area near the Pentagon, prosecutors are seeking to personalize the stories of victims and their survivors for possible use in the Moussaoui case.
Moussaoui, a French citizen, is the only person so far accused of conspiring to help the Sept. 11 attackers. A judge entered an innocent plea on his behalf after Moussaoui refused to respond to the charges.
Lemack said she told her interviewers she needed more time to review the evidence and learn about Moussaoui's motives, if he was involved. "If this guy wanted to die, I don't want to give him what he wanted," Lemack said in a telephone interview.
The president of Families of September 11, Lemack said she and her sister Danielle spent most of the 45-minute interview describing the loss of their mother, Judy Larocque, a passenger on one of the planes that hit the World Trade Center. They were interviewed in New York.
Both hijacked planes that attacked New York took off from Boston.
U.S. Attorney Paul McNulty in Alexandria and prosecutor David J. Novak have written to victims' families, saying about 30 representatives may be chosen to tell their personal stories at the trial.
They would testify during the penalty phase if Attorney General John Ashcroft decides to seek Moussaoui's execution in the event he's convicted. Ashcroft has until Friday to notify the court of his decision.
Interviews are scheduled in Boston on April 8. Prosecutors invited all immediate family members of Sept. 11 victims to come in and talk.
Family members were sent letters asking them to fill out questionnaires about the death penalty if they wished and giving them a phone number to make an appointment.
Katherine Bailey, widow of Ace Bailey, 53, of Lynnfield, Mass., plans to speak to prosecutors, according to her sister, Barbara Pothier.
"You can't strike out, so it's a good thing for Kathy to go in and express her rage," Pothier said Monday from her sister's home.
Bailey, traveling on board United Airlines Flight 175, was director of pro scouting for the Los Angeles Kings ice hockey team.
Pothier said her family is strongly in favor of the death penalty.
Hanson, of Easton, Conn., lost his son, daughter-in-law and granddaughter. He said venting to a government official wouldn't help him with his grieving.
"Talking to other people who were affected is far better," Hanson said.
Christie Coombs of Abington, Mass., whose husband Jeffrey was killed, said if chosen she doesn't know if she could handle participating in the trial.
"I think it would be too emotionally draining for me to sit there in a room with the man who helped plan my husband's death," Coombs said. "I don't think it's something I could handle."