Jury selected, evidence introduced in Rasmea Odeh trial
UPDATE: The third day of Rasmea Odeh’s trial ended in the midst of her testimony. Her lead defense attorney, Michael Deutsch, believes the trial could trickle into next week.
Deutsch questioned Odeh for approximately an hour before Judge Gershwin A. Drain interrupted to call the court into recess until Friday morning. During her time on the stand, Odeh talked about the work she does with the Arab American Action Network and her impact on her community.
Judge Drain reminded Odeh not to talk about the torture or sexual assault she endured during her time in Israeli military custody.
“We are not here to retry you for the [bombings],” Judge Drain said to Odeh right before she took the stand.
Before Odeh took the witness stand, her defense called a character witness. Nadine Naber, an associate professor at University of Illinois at Chicago, who thoroughly detailed many of Odeh’s contribution’s to her community in Chicago. Naber met Odeh in 2004 and they began working closely together in 2013.
The prosecution’s last relevant witness, Jennifer Williams, was the government official who interviewed Odeh during the final stage of her naturalization. Williams could not remember the specific interview with Odeh.
Deutsch will continue to question Odeh when the trial resumes Nov. 7 followed by a cross-examination by the prosecution. The defense will rest its case, both sides will issue their closing arguments then the jury will deliberate and makes its verdict. The trial was supposed to be decided by Friday, but Deutsch said Judge Drain will not allow the jury to deliberate past 1 pm so the trial may not be over until Nov. 10.
Day 2: A day after jurors were selected in Rasmea Odeh’s trial, they heard opening statements from the prosecution and Odeh’s defense. Three of the United States government’s witnesses also testified.
Last October, Odeh was charged with unlawful procurement of naturalization. Now, she awaits the jury’s verdict. The US government has to prove that Odeh knowingly concealed her arrest and conviction by an Israeli military court when she applied for naturalization.
The prosecutors’ first witness was a homeland security agent, Stephen Webber, who was in charge of the investigation into Odeh’s alleged crime. According to his testimony, the investigation began in 2010.
Raymond Clore, a State Department worker, and Douglas Pierce of the US Citizenship and Immigration Service (USCIS), both witnesses brought by the prosecution, spoke in general terms about the immigration and citizenship application process.
Webber and Clore were both cross examined by Odeh’s lead defense attorney, Michael Deutsch, who argued that Odeh’s original immigration form did not include a sworn statement with Odeh’s signature, and that standard USCIS procedures only investigate an applicant’s criminal record inside the United States.
Pierce’s testimony was cut short in the middle of questioning by the prosecution and will be picked up tomorrow morning [Nov. 6].
The jury was selected Nov. 4 at Theodore Levin Court House in Detroit. Judge Gershwin A. Drain questioned nearly 40 potential jurors before he, the prosecution and Rasmea Odeh’s defense selected 14 jurors.
Odeh’s day in court began a little after 8:30 am. Judge Drain began the trial by denying a motion by the defense to reconsider his decision not to allow Odeh to testify about the vicious physical and sexual torture she experienced at the hands of the Israeli military leading to her conviction in 1967.
Michael Deutsch, Odeh’s lead defense attorney said there is “minimal chance of [Odeh] getting a fair trial,” after the judge stuck with his decision not to let Odeh testify about her experience in Israeli custody.
During lines of questioning, the potential jurors were made aware of Odeh’s conviction and the fact that the bombing may have killed and injured people, but judge Drain did not disclose to them where and how she was convicted. A majority of the potential jurors were white. Only one Muslim woman was among the potential jurors.
Potential jurors were asked questions including:
1. Are any of your family members or friends naturalized citizens?
2. Are any of your family members or friends immigrants?
3. Do you have a bias or prejudice against Palestinians or Muslims?
4. Do you have any friends or family members who are Palestinian or Muslim?
Approximately 90 people watched the trial from the spillover room. There wasn’t enough room in the courtroom, but for the rest of the week 40 observers will be able to watch from Judge Drain’s courtroom on a first-come first-serve basis. A majority of trial attendees were there to support Odeh. Most of them traveled to Detroit from Chicago, but there were others from Ohio, Minnesota and Wisconsin.
After the jury selection was complete, Odeh’s supporters marched to the federal building in downtown Detroit.
The trial will continue tomorrow with opening statements from the lawyers.