by Kurt Haskell:
Lori and I attended Umar's status conference this week. The proceedings were extremely interesting to me. First of all, Umar walked into the courtroom in a white t-shirt. He turned and stood about 20 feet in front of me. I kind of had a deja vu moment as when I saw him in Amsterdam, he stood about 10 feet in front of me with a white t-shirt on. I finally got to hear Umar speak. I've never heard him speak until this hearing. His English seemed pretty good, although he had a fairly heavy accent. He did have a Nigerian translator present and he did consult with him a few times. Most of the hearing was spent in a back and forth discussion between Judge Edmunds and Umar. The discussion centered around the need for Umar to accept standby attorney Chambers as his regular attorney. Umar refused over and over again. Everyone in the court room seemed to just want to stand up and say "LET HIM BE YOUR ATTORNEY!". Judge Edmunds finally gave up. Another part of the hearing discussed the fact that Chambers is not Umar's attorney right now, and therefore, Umar and Chambers don't have the attorney client privilege. Thus, anything Umar tells or shows Chambers can be found out by third parties. The U.S. Attorneys seemed particularly troubled with the fact that some of the information they turned over to Umar, could be obtained by third parties and used in a civil case. I wonder why? The hearing then proceeded with a discussion of if and how the evidence held by Umar's previously fired attorney (given to her by the prosecution) would be turned over to Chambers. The result was that it would only be turned over to Umar at Milan Prison and Umar could show Chambers only what he wants to. Note that Chambers, during this discussion, indicated that Milan prison had not been providing faxes or messages of his to Umar or being helpful in scheduling appointments. He went on to state that it was his belief that Milan prison was doing this intentionally, and he suspected that it had received a call from "higher up" to do this. Note that I had a similar experience with Milan prison last year. The hearing concluded with Judge Edmunds setting a trial date. She first suggested June 23, but Chambers wasn't available. She then suggested September 10, but Chambers again wasn't available. She then suggested October 4 and noted that she wouldn't likely reschedule that date. When she set that date, Umar stated that he needed more time than that to read up on how to do the trial. He then asked for a trial date in 2012. Judge Edmunds immediately refused. I was shocked at how adamant Umar was that he was going to represent himself. I now strongly believe that this matter will proceed to trial. What I am concerned about is that Umar will likely represent himself at the trial. If he does so, he may not know how to get the important evidence admitted into the record. If I am correct and Umar does not use Chambers in the trial, I fear that the facts will never be known. I was very impressed with Chambers and Judge Edmunds. I did not get the impression that either is biased towards the prosecution and the "official" story. I talked to Chambers for a few minutes after the hearing and we will be having a conference soon. It was strangely odd that no other passengers were present. This fact put Lori and I back in the crosshairs of the media crunch. We talked to at least 7 reporters, but only Fox 2 Detroit reported the interview. What is also strange is that nearly all of the passengers seem to have disappeared. I no longer have a valid email address or phone number for any other passenger. I am not sure what to make of this.