Federal judge rejects plea for delay in Boston bombing trial News
Federal judge rejects plea for delay in Boston bombing trial

[JURIST] A judge for the US District Court for the District of Massachusetts on Wednesday rejected the latest plea by lawyers for accused Boston Marathon bomber [BBC backgrounder] Dzhokhar Tsarnaev to pause jury selection for his trial due to the recent attacks in Paris [BBC backgrounder]. The judge, in a short ruling, noted that he had given potential jurors a questionnaire to asses whether an impartial jury could be chosen in this case. He stated that his review of the questionnaires had “confirmed, rather than undermined” his assertion that a fair and impartial jury could be chosen. Tsarnaev’s lawyers argued [motion, PDF] that the attacks in Paris might evoke painful memories about the Boston Marathon bombing, making it difficult to select an unbiased jury. Many news organizations have drawn parallels between the two attacks, and Tsarnaev’s lawyers argued that because the Paris attacks have dominated the news cycle, jurors might have been indirectly exposed to coverage of the Boston bombing.

Jury selection for Tsarnaev’s trial began earlier this month [JURIST report]. Approximately 1,200 potential jurors are being called to the federal courthouse for consideration. While there is strong evidence against Tsarnaev, his attorneys are likely to focus the bulk of their attention to the penalty phase, during which they are expected to argue that his life should be spared from the death penalty due to potential mental health issues. In April 2013 Tsarnaev was charged with using a weapon of mass destruction [JURIST report]. However, the White House also announced that, as a US citizen, Tsarnaev would not be charged as an enemy combatant. Controversy arose that same month after federal officials said that Tsarnaev would not be read Miranda rights [Cornell LII backgrounder] before being interrogated. A US Department of Justice official announced that the government would be invoking the public safety exception. The American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) [advocacy website] criticized [JURIST report] the move, saying that this exception “should be read narrowly” and “is not an open-ended exception to the Miranda rule.”