Bombing trial ‘can stay in Boston’

Published: Saturday 28th February 2015 by The News Editor

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The trial of Boston Marathon bombing suspect Dzhokhar Tsarnaev can stay in Massachusetts, a US appeal court has ruled.

A three-judge panel of the 1st US Circuit Court of Appeals said any high-profile case would receive significant media attention, but knowledge of such case “does not equate to disqualifying prejudice”.

“Distinguishing between the two is at the heart of the jury selection process,” the panel wrote.

Three people were killed and more than 260 were injured when twin bombs exploded near the marathon finish line on April 15 2013. Tsarnaev’s brother Tamerlan, 26, died days later after a gun battle with police and Dzhokhar, then 19, was found hiding in a boat parked in a garden.

Tsarnaev’s lawyers argued that intense media coverage of the case and the large number of people personally affected by the deadly attack made it impossible for him to find a fair and impartial jury in Massachusetts.

But prosecutors insisted that Judge George O’Toole’s individual questioning of prospective jurors successfully weeded out people with strong opinions on Tsarnaev’s guilt.

In its 2-1 ruling, the appeal court found that the defence did not meet the standards necessary to have the trial moved.

It said it was not clear and indisputable that pre-trial publicity required a change of venue, and that the ongoing jury selection process did not suggest pervasive prejudice. Furthermore, the court ruled, the defence did not demonstrate irreparable harm if the trial was not moved.

Tsarnaev’s lawyers had asked Judge O’Toole three times to move the trial, but he refused, saying bias among prospective jurors could be rooted out through careful questioning about their thoughts on Tsarnaev, 21, and the death penalty.

A panel of 12 jurors and six alternates will be chosen to hear the case. The same jury will decide whether Tsarnaev lives or dies. If he is convicted, the only possible punishments are life in prison without pariole or the death penalty.

Only those who said they are willing to give meaningful consideration to both punishments can be seated on the jury.

Published: Saturday 28th February 2015 by The News Editor

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