On Friday, U.S. District Judge Leonie Brinkema reminded jurors to avoid looking up words in the dictionary after learning a juror researched the definition of “aggravating.”
The jury is balancing “aggravating” and “mitigating” factors to determine whether Moussaoui should be executed or spend the rest of his life in prison for his role in the attacks of September 11, 2001.
Brinkema told jurors, “The word ‘aggravating’ essentially means to make something worse.” She advised, “Do not hesitate to ask questions if you have any. If you have a question, we are here to help.”
…Brinkema had denied the jury’s request for a dictionary Tuesday, and jurors never asked for any definitions.
Since when is it wrong to want to understand the meaning of words? Judges like Brinkema should be reluctant to use their authority, not seeking opportunities to grandstand.
“We are here to dictate how you do your job as jurors” would have been a more accurate statement.