Calhoun: Wake-Up Call

Terrorist Likes Us, He Really Likes Us

Denver's about to get The Real World, but four years ago we had a shot at getting a much bigger piece of a world that was -- and remains -- all too painfully real.

"In the name of Allah," began the 29-page, handwritten pleading filed in U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of Virginia on April 26, 2002, "I, slave of Allah, Zacarias Moussaoui, by self representation for every rational vital reasons set in the memorandum accompanying this motion, move for immediate order directing that my case should be moved to a 'more neutral' location."

To a more neutral town like Denver. "It is well-known that Denver Colorado is recognized in the general public as a safe secure location (the presence of the highest maximum security jail in the U.S. makes it difficult for the government to argue otherwise)," Moussaoui claimed in his pleadings. "And no doubt that the high altitude and the fresh air will bring back some sense of security (maybe?)."

That highest maximum security jail at one point held not only Ted Kaczynski and the original World Trade Center bomber, Ramzi Yousef, but Timothy McVeigh.

"It is beyond dispute for sound minded people (whatever their religion) that the constitutional standard of fairness requires that a defendant have a panel of impartial, indifferent jurors," Moussaoui argued. Moving the trial to Denver would lend "a greater feeling of personal safety for the Jury and therefore reduce slightly the level of hostility and increase the ability to make rational decisions for the Jury."

The judge rejected his motion, and earlier this month a Virginia jury found Moussaoui him guilty in connection with at least one death on 9/11 -- even though he was already in jail at the time on immigration violations. Now those same jurors must decide if Moussaoui deserves the death penalty.

Of course, even in "neutral," high-minded Denver, a jury had no trouble sentencing McVeigh to death.

But as the terrifying show goes on, and on, in Virginia -- with tapes from the cockpit of Flight 93 played in the courtroom and a photo of the youngest victim, a two-and-a-half-year-old headed for Disneyland, displayed there, too -- it's clear that this time, Denver dodged a bullet. -- Patricia Calhoun

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Patricia Calhoun co-founded Westword in 1977; she’s been the editor ever since. She’s a regular on the weekly CPT12 roundtable Colorado Inside Out, played a real journalist in John Sayles’s Silver City, once interviewed President Bill Clinton while wearing flip-flops, and has been honored with numerous national awards for her columns and feature-writing.
Contact: Patricia Calhoun