Lawyer: Airline attack suspect won't talk to jury

AP News

10/7/2011 4:44:21 PM - AP News

A Nigerian man headed to trial for an alleged terrorist attack aboard a Detroit-bound plane has changed his mind and will not give his own opening statement to jurors next week, an attorney said Friday.

Umar Farouk Abdulmutallab is acting as his own lawyer and had indicated he wanted to speak Tuesday. But the task will go to his court-appointed standby counsel, Anthony Chambers.

"I've been authorized. I'm comfortable with it, very comfortable," said Chambers, who met a Friday deadline to notify the judge and prosecutors.

Chambers declined to comment further on Abdulmutallab's decision or discuss his reasoning.

Abdulmutallab, 24, is charged with trying to commit a suicide mission on behalf of al-Qaida. The government says he attempted to detonate a bomb in his underwear aboard Northwest Airlines Flight 253, from Amsterdam to Detroit on Christmas 2009. The bomb, however, didn't work and he was badly burned instead.

Lloyd Meyer, a former terrorism prosecutor at the U.S. Justice Department, said he believed had Abdulmutallab given his own opening statement, "he would have stood up in front of a jury and said, `I wanted to murder my fellow passengers and here's why.'

"That might not have won the case for him," said Meyer, a lawyer in Chicago.

Abdulmutallab has revealed streaks of defiance in court, although never in front of U.S. District Judge Nancy Edmunds. Earlier this week, as he was brought in for jury selection, he called the U.S. a "cancer" and declared that Anwar al-Awlaki still was alive.

Al-Awlaki, a radical U.S.-born Muslim cleric, was killed by a U.S. military strike in Yemen on Sept. 30. The government alleges he directed Abdulmutallab to take a bomb aboard the plane.