What We Know So Far
- Jury selection began Monday in the case of Dzhokhar Tsarnaev, the accused Boston Marathon bomber who has been charged in a 30-count indictment.
- The jury will be selected from 1,200 people.
- The process is expected to take weeks, and the courthouse is under heavy security.
Court is in recess. Here is what happens next:
BOSTON — The trial of United States v. Dzhokhar Tsarnaev is officially in recess until next week.
Over the past three days, about 1200 citizens called to served reported to jury selection to be considered as potential juror in the case. Each one filled out a questionnaire containing 100 questions and two handouts where they indicated if they knew anybody involved in the case. The Judge and the attorneys for both sides will review these documents and begin to narrow the field.
Next week, each prospective jurors will call a phone number given to them by the court. Some will call and learn that they have been excused. Others will be asked to report for individual questioning — the next phase of the jury selection process.
On Jan. 15, Judge George O'Toole will begin individual questioning — or voir dire — of possible jurors. The defense and prosecution are each entitled to 20 challenges to dismiss jurors during voir dire. At one point, Tsarnaev petitioned the court for an additional 10 challenges, but was denied.
A large portion of the jury pool could be dismissed based on their response to one of the 100 questions. Those who indicated on their questionnaire that they could not impose the death penalty if Tsarnaev is found guilty will be automatically dismissed. As O'Toole informed each wave of jurors this week, in the event of a guilty verdict, it is the jury — not the judge — that will decide whether to sentence Tsarnaev to death or life in prison without parole (the only two options in this case.)
The court is aiming to begin opening statements in the trial on Jan. 26.
BOSTON — Boston Marathon bombing survivor Jaymi Cohen attended the final jury selection hearing Wednesday afternoon — the first survivor to appear at the courthouse this week.
It was Cohen's first time seeing the accused bomber Tsarnaev in person.
Cohen, a Tufts University student who was near the marathon finish line when the bombs went off on April 15, 2013, was accompanied by her father, Dana Cohen, and U.S. Attorney Carmen Ortiz, also appearing at the Tsarnaev trial for the first time.
The Cohens sat in the front row of the seating reserved for public just outside the jury assembly hall, peering in on Tsarnaev from behind the glass. Dana Cohen's gaze rarely moved from Tsarnaev. At times, he craned his neck to get a better look at the accused.
Cohen told the media she did not want to comment as she left the hearing. Her father put his arm around her as the two walked away from the courthouse.
The single demonstrator outside Moakley courthouse Wednesday, Kevin O'Connell, from Roslindale, Massachusetts, told BuzzFeed News he hopes the trial of Dzhokhar Tsarnaev exposes an FBI cover-up related to his older brother, Tamerlan.
O'Connell said it is his belief that the FBI allowed Tamerlan Tsarnaev to travel back and forth from the Dagestan region of Russia, where he became radicalized, before the April 2013 bombing. The FBI has acknowledged that the older Tsarnaev brother was interviewed by the bureau in 2011 and determined not to be an imminent threat.
O'Connell said he considers Dzhokhar Tsarnaev a "pawn" in his brother's plan to bomb the marathon, but said he's not opposed to Tsarnaev receiving the death penalty if convicted.
"I'm not for the [death penalty], personally. But I could see him getting it," O'Connell told BuzzFeed News.
BOSTON — As Dzhokhar Tsarnaev entered the jury assembly hall Wednesday morning for the fifth of six sessions of jury selection in the Boston bombing trial, his lead counsel Miriam Conrad whispered something to him and they both nodded affirmatively, Tsarnaev cracking a slight smile.
If the message from Conrad to Tsarnaev was not to fidget in his chair, it didn't take.
Seated in his usual spot, flanked by Conrad and one of his other renowned defenders Judy Clarke, Tsarnaev shifted in his seat, examined his finger nails, and frequently rubbed his swollen left eye.
When Judge O'Toole read off the charges against him, Tsarnaev shook his head slightly — just as he did yesterday at the same point during O'Toole's instructions to the jury pool.
At the point when Tsarnaev was called to stand, Conrad — who spends most of these sessions looking out at the 200 or so prospective jurors seated before her — felt she needed to nervously encourage Tsarnaev to stand.
Day three of Tsarnaev jury selection began with around 400 potential jurors.
Those who cannot impose the death penalty will be dismissed.
Tsarnaev continued to appear agitated.
BOSTON — The pool of 200 potential jurors at the afternoon session seemed especially interested to see Tsarnaev as he entered the jury assembly hall on Tuesday.
Many seated in the back craned their necks to get a glimpse of the accused. It's possible they weren't expecting him to appear at jury selection today — and it's even more likely that some of the prospective jurors read or watched a news report in the last day about him appearing at jury selection.
During the fourth of the six preliminary proceedings scheduled for this week, Tsarnaev appeared as he has all week: somewhat agitated, unable to not do something with his hands.
While reading the charges, Judge O'Toole listed the April 18 killing of MIT Officer Sean Collier and Tsarnaev appeared to shake his head and stroke his beard.
When he was asked to stand toward the end of what should be a now routine session, Tsarnaev required the nervous encouragement of his lead counsel Miriam Conrad who signaled him with her hand to get up.
Over the past two days, about 800 citizens from all over eastern Massachusetts have reported to Moakley Courthouse to be considered as jurors in the trial. Another 400 or so will fill out the same lengthy questionnaire on Wednesday. At that point, the judge and counselors will begin to review their answers and narrow the field hoping to land on 18 names (12 jurors, six alternates) that the legal teams agree can be fair and impartial in United States v. Dzhokhar Tsarnaev.
BOSTON — Day two of jury selection in the Boston bombing trial got off to a chillingly awkward start.
Around 9 a.m., the defendant entered the jury assembly hall along with the lawyers for both sides. Conspicuously not part of the procession was Judge George O'Toole.
What happened next was dramatic. Tsarnaev sat face-to-face in deafening silence with the pool of 200 prospective jurors — many of whom likely didn't even know they were going to see Tsarnaev today.
A few minutes later, O'Toole entered the hall and began reading the same instructions he delivered twice yesterday to the first two waves of possible jurors. He implored the pool of people who, at this point, had been seated in the hall over an hour and a half, to be thoughtful in how they filled out the questionnaire, stressing that there are no wrong answers.
As O'Toole read off the charges, Tsarnaev sat fidgeting his hands — just as he did yesterday when he heard the accused crimes read by the judge. Tsarnaev's lead counsel Miriam Conrad peered at Tsarnaev periodically throughout the session. His agitation seemed to concern her.
After the judge recessed the session, prospective jurors began to fill out their questionnaires. The first person to finish exited the hall about 40 minutes after beginning the survey, while most finished about an hour into writing. But two hours after the surveys were distributed — and as citizens began to arrive early for the 1 p.m. afternoon session — a few possible jurors still remained in the hall writing.
Outside the hall, the next wave of prospective jurors and family members of the remaining citizens from the morning session still filling out paperwork began to gather in lobby and café. A young prospective juror talking to the mother waiting for her daughter to finish her questionnaire said she couldn't "do this" because she had paid $5,000 to start college next semester. All the other juror's mother could tell her was that she was going to be here for a while today.