A federal judge today refused to throw out incriminating statements a 24-year-old Nigerian student made to federal agents shortly after he allegedly tried to blow up a Detroit-bound airliner on Christmas Day 2009.
U.S. District Judge Nancy concluded that Umar Farouk Abdulmutallab wasn’t under the influence of the painkiller fentanyl when he told agents he was an al-Qaida operative who was trying to blow up the jetliner.
Edmunds also said agents didn’t have to read him his Miranda rights before the interview because they were concerned that other suicide bombers were planning similar attacks that day.
“I’m satisfied based on the testimony… that he was in fact lucid, not confused and fully oriented,” Edmunds said following two days of testimony at an evidentiary hearing. “There was no reason to believe he didn’t understand the questions being asked or circumstances under which he was being asked those questions.”
She added: “I’m also satisfied there was a national security exception… that excused the giving of Miranda warnings.”
The ruling came after Abdulmutallab’s defense lawyer, Anthony Chambers, spent two days trying to shake the testimony of a nurse, FBI agent and Wayne State University pharmacologist who all agreed that Abdulmutallab was coherent and knew what he was saying when interviewed by agents.
Chambers, through questioning, tried to show that Abdulmutallab was pumped up on fentanyl and confused when agents questioned him in a hospital room.
Chambers also tried to show that agents intentionally failed to read him his rights to get him to talk.
FBI agent Timothy Waters testified Wednesday that agents were worried that the nation confronted by a major terrorism threat and were mainly interested in finding out whether he was acting alone or if others were involved. He said he proceeded with the approval of his boss, Detroit FBI chief Andrew Arena.
Edmunds' decision was a victory for federal prosecutors, who are arguing that the incident was an act of terrorism, not an individual acting alone.
Chambers and the prosecutors will begin questioning jurors on Oct. 4 to start the process of paring down a 250-member jury pool to 16 people who will hear the case. Opening statements are to begin Oct. 11.
More than 300 people were aboard the Amsterdam to Detroit flight when Abdulmutallab allegedly ignited explosives concealed in his underwear.
Passengers and crew members wrestled him to the ground and he was taken into custody after the plane landed at Metro Airport.
The trial is expected to take four weeks.