Watch CBS News

'Underwear Bomber' Case Fizzles - But Why?

By Vickie Thomas

I thought I would still be sitting in Judge Nancy Edmunds' courtroom feverishly taking notes as assistant prosecutors called witness after witness. On day two of the trial however, the so-called "Underwear Bomber," Umar Farouk Abdulmutallab decided to plead guilty to all eight counts against him, including attempted murder and conspiracy to commit a terrorist act.

Abdulmutallab represented himself with help from court appointed, standby attorney Anthony Chambers. Speaking of Chambers, I served as the jury foreman in a murder case last year.  We convicted his client.  Chambers is a great attorney though…had it not been for a last minute, fuzzy McDonald's restaurant surveillance video that happened to capture the street shooting, the defendant may have walked away a free man, but that's another story.

When Chambers arrived in the courtroom Wednesday morning for day two of the "underwear Bomber" trial, he looked at me and said, "Get your ink pen ready … you'll be busy."  Even before that hint, all the reporters knew something was going on and I had been told by an insider the day before to expect another surprise in the case Wednesday.  On Tuesday, Chambers did not deliver an opening statement as anticipated - yet another clue.

He did however attempt to get exhibit 14 tossed out.  It's a photo of the severe burns Abdulmutallab received to his thigh and genital area.  Judge Edmunds ruled that the prosecution could show the revealing photo.

I think this was the turning point in the case for Abdulmutallab.  Immediately after that defeat, Chambers requested a sidebar.  Then the judge called a 10 to 15 minute recess which turned into a break that lasted for over an hour.  I think Abdulmutallab wanted to give up at that point, on the first day of the trial before the opening statement by Assistant U.S. Attorney Jonathan Tukel.

But, the confession came on day two which started with another sidebar and another hour long recess. At 10 a.m. Chambers informed the court that Abdulmutallab wanted to enter a plea of guilty on all counts.

At 10:25, the 25-year-old launched into reading a prepared statement that he penned himself.  In it, he lashes out at President Barrack Obama and the United States.  "I decided to participate in jihad," he said.

He admitted that he traveled to Yemen and agreed with at least one person to attempt to blow up a U.S. jetliner…"as retaliation for the killing of my Muslim brothers and sisters" the 25-year-old Nigerian stated.

He called the bomb hidden in his underwear, "A blessed weapon to save the innocent lives of Muslims."

At 10:30, he was done and his statement sealed his fate…life without parole.

I believe that one single piece of evidence, - a photo of his burned genital area - led to the guilty plea.  I think this single, Muslim man would rather spend the rest of his life in prison than have a picture of his private parts passed around and display in open court for jurors and other strangers to see, especially women.  The jury was made up of nine women and three men.

View CBS News In
CBS News App Open
Chrome Safari Continue
Be the first to know
Get browser notifications for breaking news, live events, and exclusive reporting.