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Q&A: Closing Statements In Mohamud Trial

The case against Mohamed Mohamud has gone to the jury. The 21-year-old defendant shook his lead attorney’s hand after closing statements were complete this afternoon. OPB reporter April Baer was there and joins Beth Hyams to discuss the case.

A courtroom sketch of Mohamed Mohamud, who was convicted for plotting to bomb Portland’s holiday tree-lighting ceremony in 2010.

A courtroom sketch of Mohamed Mohamud, who was convicted for plotting to bomb Portland’s holiday tree-lighting ceremony in 2010.

Sketch by Deborah Marble

Beth Hyams: April, what notes did closing statements hit?

April Baer: In some respects, the attorneys stuck close to themes they laid out in their opening statements, and throughout the case.

Federal Defender Steve Sady told jurors there was no here was no doubt Mohamud had said and written some terribly things, in his conversations with the undercover agents, and in his writings for a jihadist magazine. But he reminded the jury Mohamud is not on trial for his opinions of beliefs. He retraced the evidence presented of how the undercover agents praised and encouraged Mohamud, how they used religious language Sady said was bound to sway an impressionable teenager. Sady said, at the end of the day, th FBI had gone too far, and, in his words, “you don’t put your thumb on the scale of evil.”

Federal prosecutor Ethan Knight flipped a narrative he took up in his opening statement, saying jurors should look back in the past to 2008, when Mohamud was on a family vacation and created an email account that heater used only for his online jihadist activities. Knight called it the beginning of a pattern of subterfuge. And he told the jury to use their common sense, that no one could be entrapped into committing mass murder.

BH: What’s the task before the jury?

AB: The jury has two tasks: First, to decide if Mohamud was predisposed to commit the crime, in this case, using a weapon of mass destruction - before he was approached by government agents. In this case, that’s before November 9, 2009, when the FBI had an undercover operative start sending him emails.

If the jury feels the government has not proved that predisposition, another level of the case must be considered: Did the government induce Mohamud to commit the crime? Was there anything in play, including persuasion, threats, rewards, sympathy, or friendship that would cause an otherwise innocent person to do this?

One more thing - and this is a big one: the jury’s verdict must be unanimous. All twelve must be in agreement. If even one doesn’t see it the same as the others, their work isn’t done. If they can’t agree, there are certain procedures for trying to resolve a deadlock. But there’s no particular reason to believe just yet that will happen.

BH: And the defendant?

AB: Mohamed Mohamud has been appearing in court every day, usually in a dress shirt and sport coat or a sweater. He typically looked straight down at the desk in front of him. Sometimes he’d lift his eyes to a witness or a judge. His reactions tot hints that were said were measured.

BH: Thanks, April

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