US & Canada

Boston bombing: Jury selection begins in Tsarnaev case

Boston Marathon bombing suspect Dzhokhar Tsarnaev is shown in a courtroom sketch during a pre-trial hearing at the federal courthouse in Boston, Massachusetts (18 December 2014) Image copyright Reuters
Image caption Dzhokhar Tsarnaev, pictured at a pre-trial hearing last month, faces the possibility of the death penalty

Jury selection has begun in the US trial of Boston Marathon bombing suspect Dzhokhar Tsarnaev, who is accused of killing three people and injuring more than 260 in April 2013.

Mr Tsarnaev faces the possibility of the death penalty if he is convicted of detonating a pair of homemade bombs.

The attack near the marathon's finish line was the largest on American soil since 9/11.

Mr Tsarnaev has pleaded not guilty to all 30 charges against him.

His trial is expected to last at least three months.

Jury selection alone is expected to take several weeks as Judge George O'Toole selects 12 jurors and six alternates from about 1,200 prospective jurors who have been summoned to the court in Boston.

The process could be made more complicated if potential jurors express objections to the death penalty.


Mood in Boston - Clark Boyd, Public Radio International

"This is our [expletive] city." That's the rallying cry that gripped Boston in the days and weeks after the marathon attacks in April, 2013. But as weeks turned to months, and then to almost two years waiting for Dzokhar Tsarnaev's trial to begin, some of that initial outrage seemed to wane.

Victims started putting their lives back together, damaged buildings repaired. But there are lingering scars. And the news that jury selection's begun has reminded all of us how close to the surface those scars really are.

Bostonians want to get this trial done and dusted as quickly as possible. They want someone publicly held accountable for what happened to the city and its people.

But jury selection's just the beginning. The judge has said the trial proper won't begin until January 26th, and all indications are that it could last up to four months. That puts a potential verdict after the two-year anniversary mark of the attacks. Anyone here looking for quick closure will be waiting still for quite a while.


Testimony is unlikely to begin until February, the Boston Globe reported, and a verdict may not be announced until late spring or early summer.

Mr Tsarnaev's lawyers say they have not had sufficient time to prepare for the trial.

They also argue that appointing impartial jurors in the same city where the bombs were detonated is impossible.

Image copyright AP
Image caption The two homemade bombs ripped through the crowd near the marathon's finish line in April 2013
Image copyright Reuters
Image caption A small group of protesters at the court last month claimed the evidence against Mr Tsarnaev is fabricated

Mr Tsarnaev appeared in court on Monday alongside his lawyers wearing a dark sweater and light trousers - he has made two other brief court appearances since his arrest.

Jurors were told to fill out a questionnaire and were given a phone number to call next week to see if they will be asked further questions or dismissed from the case, according to the Globe.

The judge also barred jurors from discussing the case and asked them to only consider the evidence presented at trial despite widespread media coverage.

Correspondents say the prosecution will be one of the most important for the government since Timothy McVeigh was sentenced to death in 1997 for detonating a truck bomb in Oklahoma City two years earlier.

Dzhokhar and his brother Tamerlan Tsarnaev lived in the Massachusetts town of Cambridge, home to Harvard University, after emigrating to the US in 2002 from the Caucasus region of southern Russia.

The prosecution will argue that the brothers set off the bombs as an act of retaliation against the US for its military action in Muslim countries.

Tamerlan Tsarnaev was killed during a shootout with police days after the bombing.

Dzhokhar was wounded and eventually found by police hiding inside a boat in a residential neighbourhood.

He will be defended by a team of five lawyers, including Judy Clarke, an expert in capital punishment cases.

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