By Elizabeth Barber
BOSTON (Reuters) – The long-running process of picking a jury to hear the trial of accused Boston Marathon bomber Dzhokhar Tsarnaev resumed on Wednesday after a massive winter storm forced two days of delay.
The court is in its sixth week of trying to select 12 jurors and six alternates to hear the case of the April 15, 2013, attack that killed three people and injured 264 at the finish line of Boston’s best-attended sporting event.
Adding to the challenge is the fact that the 21-year-old defendant faces the possibility of the death penalty if he is convicted. Capital punishment is unpopular in Massachusetts, where state laws do not allow for its application.
“We appreciate your patience as we get through this process,” U.S. District Judge George O’Toole told a group of 16 potential jurors called for questioning on Wednesday.
It is unclear how many of the more than 150 potential jurors reviewed so far have made it through the screening process. Those reviewed were all picked from an initial pool of 1,350 called in early last month to fill out questionnaires that asked if they had close ties to the event or strong feelings that Tsarnaev was guilty.
O’Toole last week rejected the defense attorneys’ third request to move the trial out of Boston. He said in the ruling that the process had successfully found some jurors eligible to serve. [ID:nL1N0VG28G]
The questioning process has exposed numerous challenges in seating a jury, including the length of the trial, which is expected to last three to four months.
O’Toole excused multiple jurors on Wednesday after asking them if they could get paid time off from work, telling one woman, who works in an assisted living facility, “I’m not sure you’d be able to handle it, financially.”
Prosecutors contend that Tsarnaev and his older brother, Tamerlan, placed bombs at the race’s crowded finish line and three days later shot dead a police officer as they prepared to flee the city. Tamerlan Tsarnaev died that night, following a gun battle with police.
Another potential juror recounted immigrating to the United States from Moscow in 1990 with two young boys in tow, a narrative that bears parallels to that of Tsarnaev. His family immigrated to the United States in 2002 as refugees from Dagestan, a restive region in southern Russia.
The woman called the case “very disturbing.”
“I don’t think I’m a good choice,” she said.
(Editing by Scott Malone and Mohammad Zargham)