Boston took the first small step on its journey to justice Monday when a federal judge lectured hundreds of potential jurors for the Boston Marathon bombing trial about their civic duty to weigh fairly the fate of the man accused of carrying out the deadly attack.
Dzhokhar Tsarnaev, the accused Boston Marathon bomber, arrived at the jury hall in Boston’s Moakley Federal Courthouse around 9:10 a.m. for the first day of jury selection. Some 500 people filled out questionnaires after U.S. District Judge George O’Toole instructed them in the obligations of sitting on a high-profile jury.
Tsarnaev sat in the midst of his defense team. His curly hair was long and loose. He had grown a scruffy beard, and was dressed in a thick, dark gray sweater and khaki pants. He sat with his hands folded, listening. He occasionally adjusted his collar, and in one instance, stood to face jurors as O’Toole introduced him.
Outside the courthouse, a sea of international media waited with their lenses and microphones aimed at the courthouse doors, waiting for a glimpse of potential jurors and key players of the case. Outside the courthouse Homeland Security officers patrolled the perimeter, led by bomb sniffing K9s.
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Armed officers stood inside the entrance. In Boston Harbor, a police boat patrolled.The April 2013 attack killed three spectators, maimed or injured dozens of spectators and runners and left Boston traumatized for days as police locked down the entire city in their hunt for the bombers.
Tsarnaev, now 21, is facing 30 charges in connection with the attack, which prosecutors allege he planned and carried out with his brother Tamerlan, who was killed following a shootout with police. If convicted he could be executed.
O’Toole has summoned a total 3,000 potential jurors to federal court; as many as 1,200 are expected to fill out questionnaires this week. It may take up to three weeks before a jury is seated, O’Toole said, with opening statements slated for later this month.
Outside the courthouse a sea of international media waited with their lenses and microphones aimed at the courthouse doors, waiting for a glimpse of potential jurors and key players of the case. Outside the courthouse Homeland Security officers patrolled the perimeter, led by bomb sniffing K9s. Armed officers stood inside the entrance. In Boston Harbor, a police boat patrolled.
O’Toole told potential jurors that the burden is on the government to prove the defendant’s guilt, and that Tsarnaev is presumed innocent until proven guilty.
“Don’t think of the service of being a juror as an annoying burden,” O’Toole said, adding that many jurors who have wrapped up their duty have told him they found the experience “interesting” and “memorable.”
O’Toole forbade jurors from reading, watching or listening to any and all media reports until they have been excused from duty, and warned them that speaking about the case to friends and family would result in charges of contempt of court.
Jurors will also face perjury charges if they lie on questionnaires, he said.“Take the time to respond to the questionnaires thoughtfully, honestly and completely. There are no right or wrong answers,” said O’Toole. “We need your help and we need your honest performance of this important duty of citizenship.”
Court recessed at 1 p.m and was expected to reconvene Tuesday at 9 a.m.