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Jury selection begins for underwear bomber

Oct. 4, 2011 at 2:14 PM   |   Comments

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DETROIT, Oct. 4 (UPI) -- Jury selection began Tuesday for the trial of accused "underwear bomber" Umar Farouk Abdulmutallab, who allegedly tried to blow up a plane over Michigan.

Abdulmutallab, a Nigerian national who came to court wearing a large white T-shirt, was given an opportunity to change his clothes and finally agreed, The Detroit News reported. The newspaper said U.S. District Judge Nancy Edmunds made comments suggesting the defendant wanted to wear a belt from Yemen with a dagger during the trial.

"I'd like to invite you again to take an opportunity to put on a shirt with a collar that buttons, that would look more presentable for court," Edmunds said.

The judge has scheduled three days for jury selection with opening statements and testimony scheduled to begin next Tuesday. The trial is expected to last about a month.

Each potential juror was brought into the courtroom alone and questioned individually, the Detroit Free Press said.

At least one woman who said she believes Abdulmutallab is guilty was placed on the panel because she said she believes in the legal system and would listen to the evidence.

During the trial, jurors will see a replica of the bomb Abdulmutallab allegedly used during his foiled attempt on a London-Detroit flight on Christmas Day 2009. Jurors also will see a video demonstration of the bomb being detonated, which Abdulmutallab tried to keep out of the trial, arguing it was "very speculative," the Free Press said.

Experts told The Detroit News prosecutors seem to have a strong case against Abdulmutallab because of the forensic evidence, witness testimony and incriminating statements by Abdulmutallab.

"I'm not sure what else you could do to strengthen the government's case," said Peter Henning, a law professor at Wayne State University and former federal prosecutor. "Is it a slam dunk? No trial is a slam dunk, but the government certainly has powerful evidence."

Abdulmutallab could be sentenced to life in prison if he is convicted of charges that include attempted murder, attempted use of weapons of mass destruction and conspiracy to commit terrorism. His bomb failed to detonate and some of the plane's passengers and crew subdued him and doused the flames.

© 2011 United Press International, Inc. All Rights Reserved. Any reproduction, republication, redistribution and/or modification of any UPI content is expressly prohibited without UPI's prior written consent.
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