U.S. District Judge Leonie Brinkema on Monday put the death penalty case against September 11 conspirator Zacarias Moussaoui on hold for two days, declaring angrily she found it very difficult to proceed since a government lawyer improperly shared information with witnesses.
In court without the jury present, Brinkema said the lawyer, Carla Martin, violated a court rule by sharing details of trial proceedings with potential witnesses.
Brinkema said Martin had "improper communications" with seven witnesses from the FAA -- three who were to be called to testify by the government and four by the defence.
Martin works for the Transportation Security Administration and was helping the Federal Aviation Administration prepare FAA witnesses involved in the trial, prosecutors said.
Her e-mails, which were released by the court, showed that Martin sent potential witnesses transcripts of part of the trial and also coached them on how to handle certain questions related to aviation security. More details can be found here.
Brinkema issued an order in February forbidding witnesses to follow trial proceedings or read transcripts.
Judge Brinkema was appointed by President Clinton in 1993.
UPDATE: More facts, courtesy of the NY Times: "Judge Brinkema, who had earlier tried to strike the death penalty from the trial only to be overruled by an appeals court...."
The judge's order is here.
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