03/18/06 — Who is at fault? How did lawyer get chance to bungle government’s case?

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Who is at fault? How did lawyer get chance to bungle government’s case?

With all the emphasis on the war on terrorism, the public must wonder how federal attorney Carla J. Martin was playing a key role in the prosecution of admitted al-Qaeda conspirator Zacarias Moussaoui.

Maussaoui is on trial to determine whether he should be executed or sentenced to life in prison for his part in the conspiracy to fly hijacked airliners into U.S. buildings.

He already has admitted his role.

In recent days it was learned that federal lawyer Martin had been improperly coaching witnesses on what to say and not to say when called upon to testify.

Presiding Judge Leonie Brinkema immediately halted the proceedings and began looking into whether the witnesses had been tainted by the attorney’s actions.

Afterward, the judge said that even more problems had arisen during that inquisition.

“I don’t think in the annals of criminal law there has ever been a case with this many significant problems,” the judge said subsequently. She said she was allowing the trial to continue but under restrictions legal observers feel seriously jeopardize prospects of getting a death penalty.

The lawyer who caused the problem was described as being emotionally devastated. Legal experts say she also could face serious charges — civil and criminal.

The issue today is not whether Moussaoui will be punished or set free. He already has been adjudged guilty of the crimes. The trial is simply to determine whether he spends the rest of his life in prison or will be executed.

But the question which must concern the American taxpayers — and the president of the United States — is how Carla J. Martin was in such an important position in the prosecution of the biggest court case so far in the war on terror.

Published in Editorials on March 18, 2006 10:54 PM