Ft. Meade, Md.— Pre-trial hearings in the case of Khalid Sheikh Mohammed and four other alleged Sept. 11 conspirators opened Monday morning with one of the defendants arguing he needed an extra attorney who specializes in capital punishment to help him avoid the death penalty.
In the first session since the five men were arraigned in May at the U.S. Naval Base at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, the U.S. military attorney for Mustafa Ahmed Hawsawi asked for an additional lawyer who is experienced representing defendants in capital punishment cases. But Judge James L. Pohl, an Army colonel and Pepperdine University law graduate, said that the alleged Al Qaeda financier must himself ask the court for the assistance.
He did so through an interpreter, answering a series of questions by the judge, and said he wanted David A. Ruhnke, a New Jersey attorney who specializes in death penaltycases, to assist in the complicated legal case.
“At one time the entire FBI resources were committed to investigating this case,” Navy Cmdr. Walter Ruiz, Hawsawi’s military attorney, told the judge, saying that additional legal help was crucial. “What this case needs is someone with capital murder experience.”
But prosecutor Robert Swann, a retired Army colonel, argued that Hawsawi should not be given the additional help because the defendant already has another five lawyers supporting him on various aspects of the case. Swann said there also is a pool of 60 defense lawyers available to help Guantanamo Bay prisoners.