A Sixth Circuit Court of Appeals in the United States yesterday upheld the conviction of Farouk Abdulmutallab, a Nigerian underwear bomber who was sentenced to multiple life sentences over his attempt to blow up a Detroit-bound American aircraft on Christmas Day in 2009.
According to court records, Abdulmutallab, who represented himself during the trial, stated that he felt receiving representation from a federal public defender would not be in his best interest. After one day of the trial, he entered a "guilty plea" to all eight counts in the indictment and was sentenced to four consecutive life sentences plus 30 years and 240 months.
In an appeal, Abdulmutallab challenged the court's decision to allow him to represent himself as well as the admission of several statements he gave while being treated at the University of Michigan Hospital, his competency to enter his guilty plea and whether or not his sentences were constitutional.
But the appeals court panel said the trial court was not obliged to conduct a competency hearing before accepting Abdulmutallab's plea, saying that the pre-trial record indicated he was able to assist in his own defence before entering the plea.
Similarly, the appeals court rejected Abdulmutallab's claim that a competency hearing should have been ordered before allowing him to proceed without an attorney, citing the fact that standby lawyer appointed by the trial court to assist Abdulmutallab took part in the vast majority of proceedings prior to his guilty plea.
The court dismissed his challenge to the admission of statements he gave while hospitalised, saying that Abdulmutallab lost the right to challenge the admission when he pleaded guilty.
"We will not address the merits of Abdulmutallab's argument, as he waived any right to challenge the suppression of his statements when he entered the guilty plea," Judge David McKeague wrote in the unanimous opinion.
The court also concluded that the sentences Abdulmutallab received were within the boundaries of federal law and the US Constitution.
Judge McKeague then said, "Abdulmutallab attempted to detonate a bomb on a plane with 289 passengers. He may have been the only person harmed, but that is only because his bomb failed to properly work. These facts, and the fact that Abdulmutallab's sentence was within the guideline range and proportional, inform this court that his sentence is not 'cruel and unusual' punishment."