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Underwear Bomber to Defend Self in Trial

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By Tanya Roth, Esq. on October 18, 2010 12:58 PM

The judge hearing the case of the so-called "underwear bomber" denied his request in a hearing on October 14. The defendant, Umar Farouk Abdulmutallab, asked the court that his stand-by attorney not be allowed access to discovery documents handed over by the prosecution in the case. Judge Nancy Edmunds said no.

Abdulmutallab is defending himself against charges that he tried to blow a hole in an airliner over Detroit on Christmas Day, 2009, reports The New York Times. He has dismissed his court-appointed lawyer, Anthony Chambers, saying he was dissatisfied with the representation he was receiving.

However, Mr. Chambers will continue to function in a back-up position at the order of the court. When hearing his request that Chambers not be allowed access to the discovery documents, Judge Edmunds directly over-ruled Abdulmutallab, reports USAToday. "I believe that it's necessary, so I'm overruling you on this," she said, noting that while she respects his decision to represent himself, "you don't have legal training in U.S. law."

"We're taking a fresh look at the case," Chambers said after the hearing.

The college educated Abdulmutallab says he is fluent in English and does not require a translator. He told the court he understands all the charges against him, which include using a weapon of mass destruction to attack Northwest Airlines Flight 253.

Representing yourself is referred to as acting in "pro per." It is usually not a good strategy, especially in a criminal trial where lives are on the line. As noted in a post on FindLaw's Law and Daily Life, a recent survey of judges show that pro per cases have a negative affect on the arguments of the party, the ability to get evidence and show a major increase in procedural errors, all things that can have a hugely detrimental effect on the outcome of the case.

The underwear bomber is not scheduled for another hearing until January and will spend the time until then reviewing the documents from the government's case against him, according to USAToday. In September, Abdulmutallab had suggested he may enter a guilty plea on at least some of the charges, but no plea was mentioned in court at this latest hearing.

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