Boston Marathon bombing trial to hear opening statements

Long-awaited case of alleged bomber opens on Wednesday, reports Simon Carswell in Boston

 A file photo released in  April 2013 by the Federal Bureau of Investigation shows Boston Marathon bombing suspect Dzhokhar Tsarnaev. The trial of Mr Tsarnaev beings on Wednesday.

A file photo released in April 2013 by the Federal Bureau of Investigation shows Boston Marathon bombing suspect Dzhokhar Tsarnaev. The trial of Mr Tsarnaev beings on Wednesday.

 

Jurors in the trial of the man accused of killing three people and injuring more than 260 in two bombings near the finish line of the 2013 Boston Marathon are scheduled to hear opening statements today.

Dzhokhar Tsarnaev (21) has pleaded not guilty to 30 counts, including 17 carrying the death penalty, in the much-anticipated trial. In addition, he is accused of killing a university campus police officer three days later as he and his brother attempted to flee Boston.

The attack on the marathon was the largest on American soil since September 11, 2001.

Two home-made bombs, detonated just seconds apart and yards from the finish line, killed Massachusetts catering manager Krystle Campbell (29), Chinese student Lu Lingzi (23) and Dorchester boy Martin Richard (8). At least 17 of the injured lost limbs as a result of the blasts.

A jury of 10 women and eight men were chosen on Tuesday, concluding a painstaking selection process that began in early January. An initial pool of 1,373 potential jurors were asked to fill out questionnaires querying their views on the death penalty, on Mr Tsarnaev’s guilt and whether they were affected by the attack.

A panel of 12 chosen from 18 jurors will deliberate on the innocence or guilt of Mr Tsarnaev at the conclusion of the trial and, if found guilty, whether he should be sentenced to death or life without parole.

Selection was delayed by efforts to pick jurors who were unaffected by the marathon blast and the subsequent days-long police lockdown of the city and people who were not opposed to the death penalty, both onerous legal requirements that prolonged the process by weeks.

Mr Tsarnaev’s defence team have sought to have the trial moved out of Boston on the basis that it would be impossible to find an impartial jury given how many were personally connected to the events at the centre of the case. District Court Judge George O’Toole rejected that argument, saying that the questioning of jurors would eliminate any people who were perceived to have biases affecting the case.

Among the final panel of jurors who will hear evidence in the case are a house painter, an air traffic controller, a social worker and a retired actuary.

The jury members, picked from eastern Massachusetts, are white with one man of Iranian descent. Most are from middle-class backgrounds. One juror is a former nurse in a hospital emergency room, another sells electronic tablets at a bookshop.

Defence lawyers for Mr Tsarnaev, a Chechen-American Muslim who emigrated to the Boston area with his family as a child, have pleaded that the 21-year-old student was influenced by his radicalised older brother Tamerlan Tsarnaev who was killed during a clash with police in the Boston suburb of Watertown in the days after the attack.

His younger brother was found badly injured, hiding in a boat stored in the back garden of a Watertown house later that day.

Prosecutors are expected to present evidence showing that Mr Tsarnaev whose family moved to Cambridge, Massachusetts from Kyrgyzstan when he was eight, was motivated to carry out the bombings over his anger at the killing of Muslims in the US wars in Afghanistan and Iraq.

On Monday Mr Tsarnaev’s lawyers submitted a fourth request to move the trial out of Boston after three earlier requests were rejected by Judge O’Toole and an appeals court twice declined to intervene.