The Paris Attacks Won’t Delay Tsarnaev’s Trial

Lawyers worried that the terrorism in Paris would affect jury selection.

Boston Marathon Bombing


The Paris terror attacks won’t have an effect on the trial of accused Boston Marathon bomber Dzhokhar Tsarnaev, or, at least, not on its timing.

Last week’s murders at the Charlie Hebdo offices and the ensuing hostage crisis evoked, for some, the attack on the Boston Marathon finish line and the search for its perpetrators. The comparisons were not lost on lawyers for Tsarnaev, accused of the Boston attack. They filed a motion asking the judge to delay the jury selection process, providing time “for the extraordinary prejudice flowing from these events—and the comparison of those events to those at issue in this case—to diminish.”

No such luck said the judge today, just as he had rejected the lawyers claim that a fair and impartial jury couldn’t be found in the Boston area. The prospective juror questionnaires “so far confirmed, rather than undermined, my judgment that a fair and impartial jury can and will be chosen to determine the issues in this case,” he wrote in a motion Wednesday.

But though the Paris attack won’t impact the progression of Tsarnaev’s trial, some people think it might impact the defendant’s case. A New York Times article explored that idea, interviewing criminal justice experts who argued that the Paris bombing undercut the defense of Tsarnaev:

The events in Paris almost certainly exacerbated the challenge here, already immense, of finding an impartial jury, analysts said. And they might prompt potential jurors to view Mr. Tsarnaev not as an isolated actor but as part of a global terror network. That in turn could make some people feel even more justified in wanting him put to death, the analysts said

The trial is widely expected to result in a guilty verdict, meaning Tsarnaev’s defense is mainly focused on avoiding the death penalty. That said, there’s no real telling what the impact of Paris will be, and whether the jury that is eventually selected would have been more inclined to leniency if the attacks there hadn’t taken place. The facts of Tsarnaev’s case, after all, are unchanged. And while his lawyers focus on context, it’ll mainly be those facts that determine his fate.