Boston Marathon Bombing Trial: The Challenge of Selecting a Jury

The process has begun for the selection of a jury for the Boston bombing trial. Dzhokhar Tsarnaev has pleaded not guilty to 30 felony charges, 17 of which include the death penalty. He is the 21-year-old accused of the Boston bombing on April 15, 2013, along with his brother who died in a police shoot-out days later. The bombing killed three people and injured 260 others. Finding a non-biased jury is going to be extremely difficult for this case.

boston marathon bombingTsarnaev’s legal team has requested from U.S. District Judge George A. O’Toole Jr. that the trial be moved to another city. Their reasoning is that Tsarnaev cannot receive a fair trial in a city that is still suffering and mourning the loss of its citizens. O’Toole has rejected the request every time.

Selecting the Jury

There will be 1,200 potential jurors interviewed and asked to fill out questionnaires. Forty will be questioned each day. Such a large amount is necessary to eliminate people who are influenced by heavy news coverage and those affected by the bombings. Few of them will resemble Tsarnaev and almost all are older.

O’Toole made it clear the jury needs to set aside any judgment and let Tsarnaev have a fair trial. Also, since 17 of the charges include the death penalty, jurors will be disqualified if they are against the death penalty.

Boston discontinued the death penalty in 1984 and attempts to reinstate it have been dismissed. This presumably means that most Boston citizens are against the death penalty and so the jury will consist of a political minority of citizens.

The governments witnesses will consist most likely of F.B.I. agents and police officers. The defense witnesses will consist of friends, neighbors, family and experts. The defense is planning to argue that Tsarnaev’s difficult childhood and loyalty to his brother affected his mental ability. Trial testimony is set to begin January 26th, and will last about three to four months. If convicted, Tsarnaev will either face the death penalty, or will serve life in prison without possibility of parole.

The Boston Bombing is the worst terrorist attack on the U.S. since 9/11. It will be a closely watched trial over the next several months. The final jury will be faced with one question: does this man deserve to live, or die?

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