By Scott Malone
BOSTON (Reuters) – An all-white jury that includes a restaurant manager, several retirees and a social worker will hear the trial of accused Boston Marathon bomber Dzhokhar Tsarnaev, which gets underway with opening statements on Wednesday.
The two-month-long jury selection process wrapped up on Tuesday when lawyers for both sides winnowed the pool to 10 women and eight men. They will form the panel of 12 jurors and six alternates who will hear a trial that may run into June.
Tsarnaev, 21, is charged with killing three people and injuring 264 with a pair of homemade bombs at the race’s crowded finish line on April 15, 2013, and with fatally shooting a police officer three days later. If he is found guilty, the jury selected on Tuesday will determine whether to sentence him to death.
While the jurors’ names are secret, some details about them can be gleaned from their answers to the in-person “voir dire” questioning that took place at U.S. District Court in Boston over the past few weeks.
The panel includes a male telecommunications engineer who was at Massachusetts General Hospital the day of the attack, a female legal secretary who said she believed Tsarnaev was guilty but would evaluate the case based on its evidence and a woman who works at an area school system who bought some merchandise with the “Boston Strong” logo that became the city’s rallying cry after the attacks, according to a tally compiled by the Boston Globe.
Tsarnaev and his family immigrated to the United States from Russia’s restive Chechnya region a decade before the attack. They settled in Cambridge, Massachusetts, just outside Boston.
The jury selection process began in early January when more than 1,350 potential jurors filled out questionnaires on their ties to the attack and their views on the death penalty. To be eligible to serve, candidates needed not to have formed a set opinion of Tsarnaev’s guilt and to be willing to consider voting for execution if he was found guilty.
U.S. District Judge George O’Toole, defense lawyers and federal prosecutors huddled quietly in court on Tuesday as they winnowed the field of 75 provisionally qualified jurors. Each side had the opportunity to reject 23 candidates without giving a reason.
Thousands of people were crowded around the race’s finish line when the bombs went off, and hundreds of thousands were ordered to shelter in their homes amid a manhunt for Tsarnaev four days after the attack.
Tsarnaev’s lawyers last week asserted that the court had violated its own procedures about random selection by reordering jurors as they arrived in a way that reduced the number of black candidates questioned.
Tsarnaev’s attorneys on Monday offered a possible glimpse into their strategy when they argued that they need to be able to discuss the defendant’s relationship with his older brother, Tamerlan, early in the trial.
They described 26-year-old Tamerlan, who died following a gun battle with police three days after the bombing, as the driving force behind the attack, saying that his younger brother participated out of submissiveness.
(Reporting by Scott Malone; Editing by Eric Beech and Tom Brown)