Arguments Pushed Back in the Dzhokhar Tsarnaev Trial
The trial against Boston Marathon bombing suspect Dzhokhar Tsarnaev is already scheduled to last more than three months, but it may take even longer than expected.
Lawyers were set to present their opening statements on Monday, but that start date “is not realistic,” according to an email from John Joseph Moakley Federal Courthouse outreach coordinator Ginny Hurley.
“The process of selecting a jury for the trial of U.S. v. Tsarnaev is progressing, but in the interest of thoroughness is taking longer than originally anticipated,” Hurley wrote in the statement. Hurley added that “it is not possible” to set a new date.
Today marks one full week of voir dire, the process where potential jurors are interviewed by the judge and attorneys to weed out jurors who might hold biases. The court originally planned to interview 40 jurors a day. So far, the court is 139 potential jurors behind schedule. Only 61 people have been interviewed so far. It’s unclear how many of those people are qualified to be jurors.
The potential jurors interviewed in voir dire were culled from a pool of more than 1,300 who were called to the court to fill out a questionnaire. That process started on January 5.
Voir dire will continue until the court finds a pool of 60 to 70 eligible jurors. Then, from that pool, 18 people will be selected to serve on the panel consisting of 12 jurors and six alternates.
During the voir dire process, potential jurors are called to sit at a table with Judge George O’Toole Jr., both teams of attorneys, and the 21-year-old bombing suspect. Because Tsarnaev is being tried capitally, jurors are vetted for their opinions on the death penalty.
The process is proving difficult because many jurors have a direct connection to the bombing. A neighbor of 8-year-old Martin Richards broke down in tears during questioning. Another said his wife treated bombing patients. Many jurors who aren’t directly connected to the case say they have already made up their opinion on Tsarnaev’s guilt.
Tsarnaev is pleading not guilty to setting off a homemade explosive at the 2013 Boston Marathon finish line, murdering four people, and injuring hundreds of others.
The defense team has made several attempts to move the trial out of the federal courthouse, which is less than three miles away from where the Boylston Street attack occurred. His lawyers argue that residents of Eastern Massachusetts are unfairly biased against their client because of emotional media coverage, the area’s connection with the marathon, and the subsequent lockdown.
O’Toole has denied all of the Tsarnaev’s attorney’s requests.