Federal judge rules accused plane bomber's hospital statements admissible

[JURIST] A judge for the US District Court for the Eastern District of Michigan [official website] ruled [case materials] Thursday that statements made by Nigerian national Umar Farouk Abdulmutallab [BBC profile; JURIST news archive] while in the hospital following his alleged attempt to detonate a bomb on Northwest Airlines Flight 253 are admissible. Abdulmutallab argued that the conduct of the FBI agents was coercive because they interviewed him while under the effects of painkillers [text, PDF] and did not give him Miranda warnings. The government responded that Abdulmutallab's statements were voluntary [text, PDF] because the fact that an individual was on painkillers alone does not necessitate a finding of involuntariness and there was no evidence of any type of coercive conduct by the FBI agents. The government further argued that the lack of Miranda warnings was justified by the fact that Abdulmutallab claimed that he was trained by al Qaeda and the agents feared that an immediate interview was necessary to ascertain whether there were other imminent attacks planned. Judge Nancy Edmunds agreed with the government [Detroit News report] that national security concerns outweighed the need to give Abdulmutallab his Miranda warnings and testimony from hospital staff established that he was lucid and not confused, despite being administered a painkiller. The trial is set to begin October 11.

The use of full body scanners [TSA backgrounder] at airports is largely a response to Abdulmutallab's failed bombing attempt. In July the US Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit [official website] rejected a constitutional challenge [JURIST report] to the use of the controversial full body scanners by holding that the use of the scanners does not constitute an unreasonable search. In December a federal grand jury charged Abdulmutallab with two new counts of conspiracy and firearm possession, in addition to the six previous charges [JURIST reports] of attempted use of a weapon of mass destruction, attempted murder within the special aircraft jurisdiction of the US, willful attempt to destroy or wreck an aircraft, willfully placing a destructive device on an aircraft, use of a firearm/destructive device during and in relation to a crime of violence, and possession of a firearm/destructive device in furtherance of a crime of violence. In September 2010 Abdulmutallab fired his lawyers and chose to represent himself [JURIST report]. Abdulmutallab plead not guilty to all charges [JURIST report] in January 2010.

 

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