The charges against the Nigerian terrorism suspect, and media attention, have made it difficult to seat an impartial jury, Detroit lawyer Anthony Chambers wrote in a filing Wednesday in U.S. District Court.
That’s the argument Chambers and the self-proclaimed al-Qaida operative are using to ask for more opportunities to eliminate potential jurors for any reason when the selection process resumes Thursday.
The 10th anniversary of the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks, and alleged similarities to this case have “unsurprisingly aroused feelings of anger, pain and vengeance amongst the majority of potential jurors that have been brought before this court,” Chambers wrote.
Abdulmutallab, 24, wants more than 10 peremptory challenges to remove jurors for any reason, calling the amount miniscule. He also can strike two alternates.
The government, meanwhile, can strike seven prospective jurors and two alternates without cause.
Those challenges will be used Thursday morning to shrink a jury pool that includes 47 people — 32 women and 15 men.
The goal is to remove jurors until there are 12 left and four alternates.
The most recent blow to Abdumutallab’s chances of having a fair jury happened late last month, Chambers wrote. That’s when media reports linked Abdulmutallab to radical U.S.-born cleric Anwar al-Awlaki, who was killed by a drone strike in Yemen.
In a court filing, Chambers called it “murder.”
An FBI special agent testified last month that al-Awlaki’s Internet videos helped radicalize Abdulmutallab. On Tuesday, Abdulmutallab shouted in court that al-Awlaki was “alive!”
“It has been a continuous string of events that has damaged the defendant’s image and instilled preconceived notions of guilty within the minds of prospective jurors,” Chambers wrote.
In a separate filing Wednesday, Chambers asked to have Juror 144 dismissed for cause, saying she has a preconceived notion that Abdulmutallab is a terrorist and guilty.
She is an office manager for an area construction company
Chambers challenged her inclusion in the jury pool Tuesday, but the judge disallowed it.
U.S. District Judge Nancy Edmunds’ failure to remove Juror 144 violates Abdulmutallab’s right to a fair trial, Chambers wrote.
“Abdulmutallab should not be forced to use a preemptory challenge on a juror who is clearly biased,” Chambers wrote Wednesday.
Abdulmutallab is accused of trying to blow up a plane with about 300 people aboard on Christmas Day 2009. Prosecutors say he hid powerful explosives inside his underwear.
He faces up to life in prison if convicted of charges that include attempted murder, attempted use of weapons of mass destruction and conspiracy to commit terrorism.