Published November 17, 2014
A Nigerian man charged with trying to blow up a plane near Detroit in 2009 accused U.S. agents Friday of failing to read him his Miranda rights and interrogating him while he was sedated and recovering from major burns soon after his arrest.
Umar Farouk Abdulmutallab wants a judge to throw out statements made at University of Michigan hospital. He also asked that his fall trial be moved out of Michigan because of the public's "overall hostility" toward him.
Abdulmutallab, 24, is charged with trying to ignite explosives in his underwear on an Amsterdam-to-Detroit flight with nearly 300 people aboard. Passengers pounced on him and put out the flames on Christmas Day 2009.
Friday was the deadline to challenge the government's evidence ahead of the Oct. 4 trial in Detroit. Abdulmutallab insists on acting as his own lawyer, but he's being assisted by standby counsel Anthony Chambers, who signed the latest court filings.
At the hospital after his arrest at Detroit Metropolitan Airport, Abdulmutallab was sedated by medical staff but still interrogated by federal agents without waiving any right against self-incrimination, Chambers said.
The medication "literally rendered him incapable of voluntarily submitting a statement. ... The agents could have easily waited four to six hours as the hospital staff advised, but they knew at that moment the defendant was confused and unable to think clearly, therefore they seized the opportunity, violating all constitutional rights that one in the United States of America is afforded," Chambers wrote.
"During the entire interrogation the defendant feared for his life and was scared to even move around on his hospital bed," the attorney said.
U.S. Attorney Barbara McQuade declined to comment and said the government would respond in court. In 1984, in a case from New York state, the U.S. Supreme Court said there are circumstances where an immediate concern for public safety can trump someone's Miranda rights.
Separately, Abdulmutallab wants his trial moved to federal court in another state. He believes the jury pool is poisoned, partly because of widespread news reports of the Christmas incident.
"Many of the residents in the state are enraged that such an alleged incident occurred, not just in their country but in their home state, near their home city, at the airport that they frequent. ... It is without question that there is an inflamed public community atmosphere in Michigan toward defendant Abdulmutallab," Chambers wrote.
The government predicts the trial will last three weeks.