Unexpectedly allowed back in court, confessed al-Qaida conspirator Zacarias Moussaoui kept quiet Wednesday as two Muslims from South Asia and a Marine Corps lawyer whose boss' Pentagon office blew up on Sept. 11 cleared preliminary hurdles to sit on his sentencing jury.
U.S. District Judge Leonie Brinkema had barred Moussaoui from jury selection Tuesday because he wouldn't promise to stop giving insult-laden speeches.
Brinkema did not explain her change of mind in court, but she had said the day before that she might reconsider if Moussaoui decided to alter his behavior. Even Moussaoui's court-appointed defense lawyers said they did not know why she changed her mind.
Fifteen of the 24 prospective jurors interviewed Wednesday were qualified for service - three over defense objections and one over government protest. Identified only by number, they were ordered to return March 6 when lawyers will exercise peremptory - or unexplained - strikes to whittle the pool to 12 jurors and six alternates.
The jury will decide whether the 37-year-old Frenchman of Moroccan descent, who pleaded guilty last April to conspiring with al-Qaida to fly planes into U.S. buildings, is executed or imprisoned for life.
The 15 included three who expressed deep concerns about imposing a death penalty and two who expressed support for the principle of "an eye for an eye." All said they could follow the law despite these views.
Nine potential jurors were dismissed. One man was dismissed because he knew someone who was killed in the Sept. 11, 2001, attack on the Pentagon.
Clad in a white knit cap and green prison jump suit with "prisoner" in white letters on the back, Moussaoui arrived through a side door without warning moments after the proceeding came to order. He craned his neck to scan the prospective jurors' faces and watched them answer questions.