Judge keeps trial date for suspected plane bomber

AP News
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Posted: Jul 07, 2011 5:26 PM
Judge keeps trial date for suspected plane bomber

A Nigerian man accused of attempting to blow up a plane carrying 292 people using explosives concealed in his underwear told a federal judge in Detroit that he planned to make opening and closing statements in his upcoming trial.

Umar Abdulmutallab also told U.S. District Judge Nancy Edmunds Thursday that he wanted to do more research on court procedures before the trial's Oct. 4 start date.

Dressed in a black skull cap, long white T-shirt and khaki slacks rolled up to ankles, the 24-year-old restated his intentions of acting as his own lawyer.

He fired his four-lawyer, publicly financed defense team in September.

Abdulmutallab has a standby counsel in the case, but Edmunds wanted to be clear on the roles each would play. She asked Abdulmutallab who would make opening statements to the jury.

"I imagine I would want to make that myself," Abdulmutallab responded, adding that he would like attorney Anthony Chambers to question witnesses.

Abdulmutallab is charged with attempting to use a weapon of mass destruction and conspiring with others to kill the 281 passengers and 11 crew members aboard Northwest Airlines Flight 253 on Christmas Day, 2009, over the Detroit area. U.S investigators believe he received training and instructions from al-Qaida operatives in Yemen, beginning in August 2009.

Law enforcement officials say Abdulmutallab tried to ignite a concoction of highly explosive PETN and possibly a glycol-based liquid explosive hidden in his underwear. It set off popping sounds, smoke and some fire but didn't detonate. Passengers and crew subdued him and extinguished the flames.

The plane safely landed at Detroit Metropolitan Airport.

He faces life in prison if convicted and is being held without bond at a federal prison in Milan, Mich.

Abdulmutallab has been researching and reviewing federal rules of evidence while awaiting trial. He told Edmunds he faced "barriers" at Milan in efforts to act as his own lawyer.

"They would not even allow me to have trial transcripts ... so I can see how a trial would proceed," he said.

Edmunds said she would order prison officials to allow him to have materials to prepare for trial. However, she refused to push back the trial date and said jury selection would start Oct. 4 as scheduled, with opening statements beginning Oct. 11.

Jonathan Tukel, chief of the U.S. Attorney's office National Security Unit, successfully argued against any delays to the start of the trial.

Chambers had sought a new deadline to challenge evidence presented by the government and wanted more preparation time to assist before the start of the trial.

"The incident occurred almost two years ago," said Edmunds, adding that the defense has enough time to review and respond to evidence that could be presented. She asked both sides how long they thought the trial would take.

"I expect two weeks or less to try the case," Tukel responded.