DETROIT (WWJ/AP)– Another full day of jury selection is expected in the trial of a man charged in a failed Christmas 2009 terrorist attack on a plane near Detroit.
Twenty people, mostly women, were kept in the pool Tuesday, and more interviews are scheduled for Wednesday. Federal Judge Nancy Edmunds wants around 40 from which a 12-member jury and four alternates will be seated during the final selection round Thursday. Seven have been dismissed so far.
Umar Farouk Abdulmutallab, 24, told a federal court Tuesday that a radical Islamic cleric killed by the U.S. military is alive and called the United States a cancer.
“Anwar is alive,” Abdulmutallab told the court before questioning of potential jurors got under way. “The mujahadeen will wipe out the U.S. – the cancer U.S.”
WWJ Newsradio 950’s Vickie Thomas is covering the trial.
“When the judge came out, she advised him that he should change his attire,” reported Thomas. “He was wearing a prison t-shirt and since he was going to have the opportunity to question jurors she advised him to change his clothing into what his attorney had purchased from a store.”
“He really said that he wanted to wear his Nigerian outfit with a Yemeni belt with a dagger and of course the judge said you cannot have a dagger in the courtroom,” Thomas said.
Thomas said Abdulmutallab’s standby attorney did most of the questioning, Tuesday, but Abdulmutallab, who is representing himself in the case, did question one of the jurors about her opinions.
The first two prospective jurors called in the morning said they couldn’t be impartial and were dismissed. One of them said she believed Abdulmutallab was guilty. A few were dismissed because they said they couldn’t be impartial, and one woman said she was concerned about retaliation for serving on the jury.
The government said Abdulmutallab, a well-educated Nigerian from an upper-class family, was directed in the attack by American-born cleric Anwar al-Awlaki, who was killed Friday by a joint CIA-U.S. military air strike in Yemen.
Abdulmutallab said he wanted to become a martyr on Christmas 2009, when he boarded Northwest Airlines Flight 253 in Amsterdam, according to the government.
The failed attack was the first act of terrorism in the U.S. during the Obama administration, and it could have implications in the debate over whether terrorism suspects should be tried in civilian or military courts.
The episode also revealed the rise of a dangerous al-Qaida affiliate and al-Awlaki’s growing influence.
Abdulmutallab, who has pleaded not guilty, faces eight charges, including conspiracy to commit terrorism and attempted use of a weapon of mass destruction. The government says he wanted to blow up the plane by detonating chemicals in his underwear, just seven minutes before the jet carrying 279 passengers and a crew of 11 was to land at Detroit Metropolitan Airport.
But the bomb didn’t work. Passengers assisted by crew members saw flames and pounced on Abdulmutallab.
The government says he willingly explained the plot twice, first to U.S. border officers who took him off the plane and then in more detail to FBI agents who interviewed him at a hospital for 50 minutes, following treatment for serious burns to his groin.
The Associated Press contributed to this report.