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Final jury pool takes shape in case of man accused of trying to ignite underwear bomb on plane
DETROIT (AP) ' A Nigerian on trial for a failed terrorist attack kept his scorn for the U.S. under wraps Wednesday as a judge and lawyers filled the jury pool ahead of final selection this week.
Umar Farouk Abdulmutallab was silent, a contrast to Tuesday when he called the U.S. a "cancer" and claimed a radical Muslim cleric still is alive, despite a fatal strike last week by the U.S. military in Yemen.
There was occasional lighthearted laughter in the courtroom when U.S. District Judge Nancy Edmunds asked prospective jurors about their hobbies and lifestyles, but Abdulmutallab didn't join in.
Abdulmutallab, 24, is charged with trying to destroy an Amsterdam-to-Detroit flight with a bomb in his underwear on Christmas 2009. By mid-afternoon, the judge was getting closer to her goal of choosing 40 or more people for a final round Thursday.
Opening trial statements are set for next Tuesday.
During one-on-one interviews in court, virtually everyone was familiar with the attempted attack. The challenge for lawyers and the judge was getting them to reveal whether that knowledge would prevent them from serving as a fair juror. Edmunds repeatedly talked about how news media sometimes make mistakes.
"They pulled this gentleman off the plane. He said he did it," a man said. "It would be hard for me to say he didn't do it."
Names and most personal details of prospective jurors were not divulged. Abdulmutallab is acting as his own lawyer but, with one exception, has left the questioning to his court-appointed standby attorney, Anthony Chambers.
Lawyers did not object to keeping a woman from Nigeria, Abdulmutallab's home country, in the jury pool. On her questionnaire, she said she was "embarrassed" when the incident occurred. In court, she said, "We all feel it as a community."
A man said he had some fear of retaliation, no matter who wins the case.
"I do hear of car bombings. ... I know those things happen in other countries all the time. It's a possibility that's out there," the man said.
The government says Abdulmutallab attacked Northwest Airlines Flight 253 on behalf of al-Qaida and with direction from Anwar al-Awlaki, the American-born Muslim cleric who was killed Friday.