Jury selection begins in high-profile trial of alleged marathon bomber
More than 1,200 potential jurors filed into federal court in downtown Boston over three days last week as jury selection began for the trial of alleged marathon bomber Dzhokhar Tsarnaev.
U.S. District Judge George A. O’Toole Jr. said that he plans to have 12 jurors and six alternates in place by Jan. 26, according to a Jan. 6 Boston Globe article.
The 21-year-old Tsarnaev is facing 30 charges after his alleged involvement in the April 2013 bombing that took three lives and injured more than 260 bystanders.
The trial has attracted national attention, and protesters, media and curious spectators have flocked to the court to take part in the beginning of a trial that is expected to last months.
Judge O’Toole called upon potential jurors to take their responsibility seriously, according to the Globe article.
“It is the responsibility of every citizen to appear and serve if called,” Judge O’Toole told the jurors last week.
The case carries the added drama of the potential death penalty; 17 of Tsarnaev’s charges could be eligible for capital punishment. Judge O’Toole also warned jurors that they must be prepared to make that decision.
Boston police and federal security organizations have ramped up security around the courthouse for the beginning of the trial.
CBSNews described the scene around the courthouse on Friday:
“White vehicles from Homeland Security line up bumper-to-bumper in front of Boston’s federal courthouse while others periodically circle the block. Boston police officers patrol the perimeter on foot, and a darks special operations van is stationed near the entrance.
“In the harbor nearby, armed U.S. Coast Guard boats ply the waters, and inside the court building officers with dogs roam the hallways.”
The beginning of the trial has been met by some protesters carrying signs like “Free Jahar” and “F.B.I. Entrapment = False Conviction.” Some of the protesters think that Tsarnaev is wrongly suspected, while others believe that he will be unable to get a fair trial in Boston.
Tsarnaev’s lawyers, however, have asked that the protesters, or “self-appointed supporters,” be removed from outside the courthouse because their presence could have a “deleterious and prejudicial impact” on his case, according to a Boston Globe article.
They had previously asked for the trial to be moved out of Boston to avoid pretrial publicity playing into the verdict, but that motion was denied by the judge.
Tsarnaev, who was born in Kyrgystan, has strong ties to Massachusetts and the Boston area. He has been a permanent resident of the United States since 2007 according to official records, and he has lived in nearby Cambridge since the age of 8. He attended Cambridge Rindge and Latin School, the public high school of the city, where he wrestled on the varsity team and took part in summer employment programs.
He later attended the University of Massachusetts Dartmouth. He attended until his sophomore year, when he was arrested in connection with the bombing.
The trial, tentatively set to start with opening statements Jan. 26, looks set to capture significant air-time over the next few months as victims of the bombing, and the city itself, continue to recover. It will also be a major focus of attention for legal experts, as 12 of the potential jurors who appeared at the Boston courthouse last week will decide whether or not to put Tsarnaev to death.