DETROIT (WWJ) - Detroit will be in the national spotlight Wednesday as the beginning stage of jury selection will get underway in federal court for the man accused of trying to blow up a bomb on a plane headed for Metro Airport in 2009.
WWJ Legal Analyst Charlie Langton said terror suspect Umar Farouk Abdulmutallab will be at the courthouse as about 250 potential jurors from across the Metro Detroit area are given instructions and asked to fill out a 100-question survey.
“These are the jurors that are going to say ‘guilty’ or ‘not guilty’ on a charge of terrorism. This is an important case that’s looked at not only by the City of Detroit and the region, but by the world. And in the aftermath of 9/11, security will be at its highest level that we’ve seen in a long time,” Langton said.
The prospective jurors, defendant, attorneys and the public will all be separated by closed circuit TV, in what Wayne State University law professor Peter Henning sees as an effort to protect the defendant’s rights and the jury pool.
“Judge Edmonds is going to be very careful here to limit any interaction between Mr. Abdulmutallab and any of the individual jurors for fear that it could poison the pool and make it that much more difficult to select a jury,” Henning said. “It’s an effort to try and shield them from being contacted by others and also, to a degree, to make sure that people aren’t out there trying to spread their views about what’s going on in the trial and as a member of the jury.”
The potential jurors will be given instructions and asked to fill out a lengthy questionnaire.
“The big instruction is ‘do not talk about this case with anybody.’ And you’ve got to do that in a formal setting, and a courtroom is the formal setting to do that. There will also be some extra instructions about how to answer the questionnaire, what answers to put down and what this whole process of this trial is all about,” Langton said.
The anonymity of the jurors is so important in this case, the judge has ordered sketch artists to not include any facial features that could help identify a juror. Henning said courts are ordering this type of procedure more and more, due to social media and the intense scrutiny of high-profile trials.
Jury selection will begin October 4.
Abdulmutallab is expected to request certain incriminating statements he made while being treated at the hospital to be thrown out of trial. He said he wasn’t read his Miranda rights, but the government says there’s an exception to that rule if authorities believe there’s an immediate risk to public safety. Abdulmutallab is also expected to ask that the trial be moved out of Michigan. (Read More)
Twenty-four-year-old Abdulmutallab, a Nigerian native, is accused of trying to ignite explosives hidden in his underwear while on a flight into Detroit on Christmas Day, 2009. Abdulmutallab has claimed to be an Al-Qaeda operative, and is facing numerous charges, including conspiracy to commit terrorism.