After Dzhokhar Tsarnaev defender David Bruck finished his follow-up inquiries of the potential juror who was assigned No. 69, the 45th possible juror called for questioning in the trial of the accused Boston Marathon bomber, prosecutor Bill Weinreb asked to introduce a general objection to the defense questioning prospective jurors on what they may or may not remember following the April 2013 bombing.
Juror 69 had answered every other question posed to her by Judge O'Toole calmly and dispassionately on most of the issues of the case.
She said she hadn't formed an opinion of guilt or innocence, saying, "I believe it's up to the justice system to make that decision."
After the prosecution remarked that she seemed "middle of the road" on the death penalty and asked her if she could vote to impose it, she replied, "Yes, sir."
She added that she looked at serving on the jury as a "duty and a privilege."
In his follow-up, Bruck asked the juror — a director-level administrator with Massachusetts General Hospital — if she could recall anything in general that happened at the hospital after the bombing. When she offered no specifics, Bruck asked if she could recall that President Obama visited Mass General, to which she replied, "Vaguely."
Bruck thought it was suspect that a senior-level employee, who was clearly educated, would respond that she only vaguely remembered the president of the United States visited the place she worked, calling it a possible "red flag."
Bruck retorted in defense of his line of questioning, saying that some of the people being questioned appeared "very eager" to be on the jury.
Later on in the day, the juror assigned No. 74, a teacher, said in her response to imposing the death penalty, "I think if they've done something that warrants the death penalty. That's something they deserve."
However, when it came time for follow-up questions, it was the Boston Strong T-shirt that a fellow teacher had bought the young prospective juror shortly after the bombing that Bruck wanted to ask her more about.
"What does Boston Strong mean to you?" Bruck asked.
"I think it was just sort of the spirit of resilience that the city felt after the bombings," she said.
"Do you think that being part of this trial is also part of the community coming together?" Bruck asked.
"Maybe…I'm not. Yes," she replied.
"Is it to you?" Bruck pushed.
"Um...no? I view this as a sad thing. We shouldn't have to be doing this," she said.
"What do you mean?" Bruck pushed more.
"Bad things shouldn't happen. That's not a good answer," she said.
On Tuesday, it became clear that it was the middle-of-the-road, short responses from seemingly moderate and rational jurors that compelled Bruck and the other defense attorneys to test their sincerity — he and his co-counselors declined to ask follow-ups of other possible jurors who said they could impose the death penalty after they expressed prejudicial feelings toward Muslims in America.
Jury questioning wrapped up Tuesday after 18 jurors were questioned — bringing the total to 52. Initially, the judge said that the court would question 40 jurors per day, but no more than 20 have been called on any of the three days of questioning so far. It is unclear if any of those questioned have been selected as one of the 12 who will serve on the jury. The court is still hoping to start opening statements as early as next Monday, Jan. 26.
Michael Hayes is a senior reporter for BuzzFeed News and is based in New York.
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