“Dude, Your Pants Are On Fire!”


Umar Farouk Abdulmutallab, aka the underwear bomber, entered the courtroom on the first day of his trial dressed in a grand boubou (I know that in english speaking Nigeria it’s simply called a gown, but I like the french better), looking at no one in particular.

It was expected that Abdulmutallab, who is acting as his own attorney, might deliver an opening statement to the jury, but the defense instead chose to reserve that option for later in the trial.


In the government’s opening Assistant U.S. Attorney Jonathan Tukel pointed to the defendant saying, “..this defendant. He had a mission… for al-Qaida. His sole reason for being on Flight 253 was to blow it up… ”

Abdulmutallab111011_TukelThe above sketch shows Abdulmutallab, seated left, with assisting counsel Anthony Chambers as prosecutor Jonathan Tukel addresses the jury.


After ninety minutes of guiding the jury through the events of Flight 253 on Christmas day, 2009 the government calls its first witness, passenger Michael Zantow.  Zantow testifies that about thirty seconds after hearing a loud pop that sounded like a firecracker a passenger yelled, “Man…dude, your pants are on fire!”

The next day, in a suprise move Abdulmutallab pled guilty to all charges. Unfortunately it caught us off guard and we missed it, but you can read about it here.


Art Lien

Courtartist is me, Art Lien. I've been sketching the courts since 1976, and for most of that time the U.S. Supreme Court has been my regular beat. I've been working almost exclusively for NBC News since 1980. Courtroom sketching is a form of visual journalism or reportage drawing that is slowly dying out. Where once upon a time news organization each had their own artist covering a story, today a "pool" artist often sketches for all. It is a demanding and stressful discipline where the drawing is often done directly and under tight deadline.

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