After I got off work at WWJ on Wednesday, I decided to take a ride down to U.S. District Court in downtown Detroit to sit in on jury selection in the trial of the accused “Underwear Bomber,” Umar Farouk Abdulmutallab.
The trial starts on Tuesday: opening statements from 10am-1pm.
The security is extraordinary. Police visible outside the courthouse. You go in the building. Walk through a metal detector. No cellphones allowed. You go up to the 8th floor. There’s a black, bomb sniffing dog named Walden. You parade past him. You go through ANOTHER metal detector. You have to hand over i.d. They give you special badge. You’re allowed to sit in the back row of the courtroom. The courtroom is loaded with guards, police and security. You cannot leave the courtroom until Judge Nancy Edmunds calls a break in the case. The seats are uncomfortable. They’re like wooden church pews. You’d better not have to go to the bathroom.
Even in the back row you are close to the young defendant. He seems so small. He was very quiet during jury selection. He was taking some notes.
I was so impressed with the people who were called for jury duty.
The potential jurors seemed very smart. Well spoken. Not intimidated by being questioned by the judge, and the defense attorney and the Federal Prosecutors.
Some of them voiced concerns about their personal safety and anonymity if they’re chosen to sit on the jury.
They were questioned about some of the most personal aspects of their lives. Two men told the court they were (recovering) alcoholics. One man was grilled about his bi-polar disorder. He had to tell the court what medication he was taking (Prozac) and whether it was working. (It was.)
One potential juror from Detroit said she worried that, in her heart, she would be prejudiced in the case. She says she lives near Dearborn, and told the court she has a problem with Muslims and people of Arab descent who, in her opinion, seem to want to set up their own country within the U.S.
She also voiced her concerns about the U.S. government, and whether the defendant was really getting the “speedy trial” he deserves.
Another potential juror was questioned about a comment she made on her questionnaire about the “presumption of innocence” in the case. She said it seems inconsistent that the defendent is presumed innocent, if he has been arrested and jailed for two years.
Another man told the court he already believes the defendant is guilty and would need to hear a lot of evidence to the contrary to deliver a “not guilty” verdict in the case.
The judge reminded that him that it is the PROSECUTION’S job to prove that the defendant is guilty. It is not the defendant’s job to prove his innocence.
This case is fascinating. Real life drama. The world is watching this case.
The jury has been seated.
Opening statements are set for Tuesday.