DETROIT (WWJ/AP) – A juror from Nigeria was dismissed Thursday shortly after being selected for the trial of a Nigerian man accused of trying to bring down an international flight with a bomb in his underwear.
About a half-hour after 12 jurors and four alternates were selected for Umar Farouk Abdulmutallab’s trial, U.S. District Judge Nancy Edmunds told attorneys, “we have a problem with a juror.”
Edmunds then dismissed a woman identified a day earlier as being from Abdulmutallab’s home country. The judge did not elaborate or explain the dismissal in court.
Abdulmutallab, a well-educated 24-year-old from an upper-class family, was directed by a radical Islamic cleric and wanted to become a martyr when he boarded Northwest Airlines Flight 253 in Amsterdam on Christmas 2009, according to the government.
Lawyers had not objected to keeping the Nigerian woman in the jury pool when she was questioned in court Wednesday. She had said on a jury questionnaire that she was “embarrassed” at the time of the attack.
“We all feel it as a community,” she said in court.
She will be now be replaced by one of the four alternates and a new alternate will be chosen.
Opening statements in the trial are scheduled to begin Tuesday.
Reporting from the courthouse, WWJ’s Vickie Thomas said the defense is not happy about the jury selection process.
“They certainly left the court room not looking too pleased at all, because the only male African-American in the jury pool, at this point this morning, came to court an hour an a half late,” said Thomas. “They said he was late every single day.”
Abdulmutallab has pleaded not guilty to 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, and passengers assisted by crew members saw flames and pounced on Abdulmutallab.
Meantime, a Taylor attorney who was on the flight that was allegedly targeted by Abdulmutallab may be called as a defense witness.
Talking with WWJ Newsradio 950, Kurt Haskell said he will never forget Christmas Day 2009.
“It was very frightening. We thought we were going to die, so that’s about as frightening as it can get, I think,” Haskell said. “We didn’t sleep for months after this. So, it’s been very troubling I’d say.”
Haskell claims he saw Abdulmutallab escorted onto the flight in Amsterdam without a passport and also claims to have evidence that the bomb was a fake.
Haskell said he was in court this week to hear Abdulmutallab’s outburts in which he called the U.S. a cancer.
“It was pretty out of character. I hadn’t noticed him acting that way at other hearings or even during the incident, you know when his crotch was on fire, or, you know, when I saw him before we boarded,” Haskell said.
“He’s always been very quiet if not silent, so to hear him yelling out was pretty out of the ordinary.”
The failed suicide attack, the first act of terrorism in the U.S. during the Obama administration, revealed the rise of a dangerous al-Qaida affiliate and the growing influence of American-born cleric Anwar al-Awlaki, who was killed by a U.S. military strike in Yemen last week.
The Associated Press contributed to this report.