By Scott Malone
BOSTON (Reuters) – A U.S. judge on Friday rejected a third request by lawyers for the accused Boston Marathon bomber to move his trial out of the city, saying the jury selection process had been successful so far in identifying potential impartial jurors.
Attorneys for Dzhokhar Tsarnaev, 21, who is accused of carrying out the largest mass-casualty attack on U.S. soil since the Sept. 11, 2001 attacks, have repeatedly sought to move the trial out of Boston. They have contended that too many potential jurors had a personal connection to the April 15, 2013 attack that killed three people and injured 264.
The jury selection process, which wrapped up its fifth week on Friday, has shown a number of candidates with direct ties to the event, including a man married to a nurse who tended to the wounded, as well as others who were locked down in their homes during a manhunt for Tsarnaev three days after the attack.
Still, of the more than 150 potential jurors so far brought in for questioning at U.S. District Court in Boston, a process known as “voir dire,” some have been suitable, the judge said.
“The voir dire process is successfully identifying potential jurors who are capable of serving as fair and impartial jurors in this case,” U.S. District Judge George O’Toole wrote in his ruling on Friday.
“That the voir dire process has been time-consuming is not an indication that a proper jury cannot be selected for this case,” O’Toole added. “It is rather in the main a consequence of the careful inquiry that the court and counsel are making into the suitability of prospective jurors.”
Of the 1,350 people who were brought in early last month to fill out questionnaires, a minimum of 64 need to qualify for the final pool from which a panel of 12 jurors and six alternates will be selected.
Adding to the challenge is the fact that Tsarnaev could face the death penalty if convicted by a federal jury. Massachusetts state law does not allow for capital punishment and it remains unpopular in the state, a fact that has also been made clear by the jury selection process.
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 died that night, following a gun battle with police.
(Reporting by Scott Malone; Editing by Dan Grebler)