In a notable criminal case, the Sixth Circuit yesterday affirmed the conviction of Umar Abdulmutallab, the individual who sought to detonate an explosive device on a Northwest Airlines Flight 253, earning him the label the “Underwear Bomber.” United States of America v. Umar Farouk Abdulmutallab. The Court’s opinion detailed Mr. Abdulmutallab’s efforts to try to detonate a bomb placed in his underwear during the course of the Christmas day flight in 2009. Needless to say, the plot failed, but it still earned him a life sentence. Mr. Abdulmutallab decided to represent himself and had appointed standby counsel assisting. After the first day of trial, he decided to plead guilty, but then opted to appeal his conviction and sentence.
Although the issues in the case were fairly routine, the Sixth Circuit engaged in a rather thorough analysis of all the arguments, reflecting the gravity of the case. The Court was not persuaded by the challenges to Mr. Abdulmutallab’s competency, based on the documented colloquies with the district judge and her observations of his demeanor. He also challenged the constitutionality of one of the statutes under which he was convicted based on a Commerce Clause argument. However, the Sixth Circuit had little difficulty in concluding that his charges, which included use of a facility of interstate or foreign commerce, readily satisfy constitutional requirements. In similar respect, Mr. Abdulmutallab’s challenge to his sentence as a violation of the Eighth Amendment (premised largely on the fact that no one was actually injured in his effort) did not convince the Sixth Circuit. In rejecting this challenge, the Court emphasized the significance of his crimes and attempted crimes, as well as the fact of his “desire to engage in future terrorist activity.”