DETROIT – An appeals court on Monday upheld the conviction and life sentence of a Nigerian man who pleaded guilty to trying to blow up a Detroit-bound airliner with a bomb in his underwear on Christmas 2009.
Umar Farouk Abdulmutallab pleaded guilty on the second day of trial in 2011 and expressed much pride in his suicide mission on behalf of al-Qaida. Yet he still challenged a series of decisions by U.S. District Judge Nancy Edmunds, especially her refusal to order a mental health exam.
The 6th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals found nothing wrong with Edmunds' handling of the case.
Abdulmutallab, now 27, trained in Yemen under Anwar al-Awlaki, a radical American-born cleric and one of the best-known Al Qaeda figures. Abdulmutallab wore the explosive in his underwear aboard Northwest Airlines Flight 253, which originated in Amsterdam with nearly 300 people aboard.
"These actions show the deliberate, conscious, and complicated path Abdulmutallab chose to pursue in the name of martyrdom. ... The complexity behind Abdulmutallab's mission indicates the exact opposite of incompetence," Judge David McKeague wrote on behalf of a three-judge panel at the Cincinnati-based court.
Abdulmutallab's explosive caused a fire but didn't destroy the plane as it approached Detroit Metropolitan Airport. He was severely burned and made incriminating statements while being treated at a hospital.
Abdulmutallab said the statements should have been thrown out because he made them without a Miranda warning from federal agents. The appeals court, however, said he forfeited the right to challenge that issue by failing to preserve it when he pleaded guilty.
Edmunds had refused to suppress the statements, noting there's an exception to the Fifth Amendment right against self-incrimination when authorities believe an imminent safety threat may exist. She also said they were voluntary.
Abdulmutallab, the European-educated son of a wealthy banker, is housed at a maximum security federal prison in Fremont County, Colo.