In search of a Boston jury to try marathon suspect


U.S. District Judge George O’Toole Jr.

Nominated by President Bill Clinton in 1995. Holds degrees from Boston College (1969) and Harvard Law School (1972). Previously served as a state court trial judge in Massachusetts from 1982-95, and specialized in litigation during a 10-year stint at the Boston firm of Hale and Dorr.

Defense attorney Judy Clarke

Public Defender Miriam Conrad

Considered one of the most tenacious and aggressive defense lawyers in Massachusetts, Conrad has spent her entire legal career as a public defender, first for the state, and for the past 22 years for the federal judicial system. She won an acquittal in 2004 for a Saudi biomedical engineer who was charged after three sparklers were found in his luggage at Boston’s Logan airport.

Assistant U.S. Attorney William Weinreb

Assistant U.S. Attorney Nadine Pellegrini

Longtime federal prosecutor and former head of the major crimes unit in Boston.

— Associated Press


March 2011: Russian intelligence gives the FBI information that Tamerlan Tsarnaev, of Cambridge, Mass., is a follower of radical Islam.

June 2011: FBI closes the investigation after finding nothing to link Tamerlan Tsarnaev to terrorism.

Late 2011: U.S. officials add the Tsarnaevs' mother to a federal terrorism database after Russia contacts the CIA with concerns they were religious militants about to travel to Russia. She later says she has no links to terrorism.

January 2012: Tamerlan Tsarnaev arrives in Russia, where he spends time in two predominantly Muslim provinces, Dagestan and Chechnya.

April 15, 2013: Bombs go off at the finish line of the Boston Marathon, killing three people and injuring more than 260 others.

April 16, 2013: Federal agents say the bombs were made from pressure cookers packed with explosives, nails and other shrapnel.

April 18, 2013: Investigators release photos and video of two suspects and ask for public’s help identifying them. Later that night, Massachusetts Institute of Technology police officer Sean Collier is shot to death in his cruiser, allegedly by Tamerlan and Dzhokhar Tsarnaev. Prosecutors say the two steal an SUV at gunpoint from a Cambridge gas station.

April 19, 2013: The Tsarnaevs engage in an early morning gun battle with authorities who have tracked them to Watertown, Mass. Tamerlan Tsarnaev is kiled and his brother escapes, Authorities track him to a Watertown backyard, where he is found hiding in a boat and taken into custody.

April 22, 2013: Dzhokhar Tsarnaev, injured in the shootout, is charged in his hospital room with using and conspiring to use a weapon of mass destruction.

— Associated Press

His defenders bank on the story of a difficult childhood and his radicalization at the hands of an influential older brother.

Jury selection for the trial of Dzhokhar Tsarnaev, accused in the Boston Marathon attacks, begins today. Those chosen from a pool of about 1,200 will decide whether Tsarnaev planned and carried out the twin bombings that killed three people and injured more than 260 near the finish line of the race on April 15, 2013. If they find him guilty, they will decide whether he should be put to death.

It’s perhaps the most closely watched federal death penalty case since Timothy McVeigh was convicted and executed for the 1995 Oklahoma City bombing. Tsarnaev’s lawyers tried in vain for months to get the trial moved, arguing the Boston jury pool was tainted and drawing parallels to the McVeigh case, which was moved to Denver for a similar reason.

Jury selection alone is expected to take several weeks because of extensive media coverage and the thousands of runners, spectators and others in the area personally affected by the bombings. The process also could be slowed if potential jurors express objections to the death penalty.

Some legal observers say Tsarnaev’s lawyers — facing powerful evidence against him — will probably focus their energies on the penalty phase, when they could present mitigating evidence to spare his life. He has a strong team behind him. Attorney Judy Clarke touts a record of helping her high-profile clients avoid the death penalty, including Ted Kaczynski, the Unabomber; Atlanta Olympic bomber Eric Rudolph; and Jared Loughner, who killed six people and wounded former U.S. Rep. Gabrielle Giffords.

Tsarnaev’s lawyers are likely to narrow in on motive and any pressure exerted on him, said Dan Collins, a former assistant U.S. attorney in Chicago who has investigated U.S. ties to terrorism.

“I think his mitigation will be in part paying close attention to what his explanation is and what circumstances beyond his control … caused him to do this,” Collins said.

Prosecutors say 21-year-old Tsarnaev and his brother, Tamerlan — ethnic Chechens who had lived in the United States for about a decade — carried out the bombings as retaliation for U.S. actions in Muslim countries. They are also accused of killing Massachusetts Institute of Technology police officer Sean Collier.

Tamerlan Tsarnaev, 26, died after a firefight with police several days after the bombings. His brother was captured later that day, wounded and bloodied, hiding inside a boat stored in a suburban yard. Prosecutors said he described a motive in a note written in the boat: “The U.S. Government is killing our innocent civilians” and “We Muslims are one body, you hurt one you hurt us all.”

Dzhokhar Tsarnaev’s lawyers may lay the groundwork for some kind of mental health explanation, said Christopher Dearborn, a professor at Suffolk University Law School. That could include any persecution his family might have suffered as ethnic minorities in Kyrgyzstan, where the brothers spent most of their lives before moving to the U.S. with their parents and two sisters.


The defense team has also been pushing to show that he may have been intimidated by his brother.

The trial, expected to last several months, is likely to draw spectators injured in the bombings. Among them is Heather Abbott of Rhode Island, who lost part of her left leg in the bombings.

“It’s something that I will always live with,” she said.