Judge: Tsarnaev lawyers’ use of juror quotes ‘improper’

23 Jan 2015 | Author: | No comments yet »

Gelzinis: Justice will prevail in Tsarnaev trial, in Washington or Boston.

FILE – This file photo provided Friday, April 19, 2013 by the Federal Bureau of Investigation shows Boston Marathon bombing suspect Dzhokhar Tsarnaev. In a court filing Thursday, Tsarnaev’s lawyers included comments some prospective jurors wrote saying they believe Tsarnaev is guilty and should receive the death penalty.The hard truth is that the United States’ case against Dzhokhar Tsarnaev will not change, whether it’s heard at the edge of Boston Harbor, or if it’s taken down to the banks of the Potomac in Washington, D.C.For the third time, lawyers for accused Boston Marathon bomber Dzhokhar Tsarnaev have asked US District Judge George O’Toole to move the trial out of Boston, saying there’s no way their client can possibly get a fair trial in the city where he is charged with leaving a trail of murder and mayhem.Another choked back tears as she said she was a neighbor of Martin Richard, an 8-year-old boy who was killed in the 2013 bombing at the Boston Marathon, for which Mr.

This time, however, the defense is trying to hoist the judge on his own petard, using the answers from 1,373 prospective jurors who filled out questionnaires following instructions from O’Toole a couple of weeks ago. Tsarnaev’s lawyers renewed their bid for a change of venue on Thursday, the same day court officials announced that opening statements will not be heard as expected on Monday because jury selection is taking longer than anticipated. A third seemed too eager to serve, as if seeking celebrity for participating, while a fourth, a biologist, told the judge he doubted he had “the personal constitution” to consider the death penalty — even for Boston’s most loathed suspect. O’Toole, Jr. had scheduled opening statements to start on Monday but decided that date was now “unrealistic” given how many jurors had to be dismissed since the voir dire process began Jan. 15, the Los Angeles Times reports. They cited excerpts from questionnaires, including one prospective juror who wrote, “We all know he’s guilty so quit wasting everybody’s time with a jury and string him up.” O’Toole continued questioning prospective jurors Friday.

Tsarnaev’s lawyers urged the judge to stop individual questioning of jurors immediately, order the trial moved and hold a hearing to determine where it should be held. And a third wrote: “Make sure he gets what he deserves.” Last week, the lawyers also asked for a trial delay until the publicity surrounding the recent terrorist attacks in Paris calmed down. He did, however, lash out at the defense for publicly releasing excerpts of confidential juror questionnaires in its latest motion, calling it improper.

No, not all those who grieved for the dead were happy with that decision, but as one Oklahoma City firefighter told me, “We’ve already suffered too much in this town. Nothing will cause us to retract from that position.” O’Toole, however, would not budge. “We can keep debating this,” he responded. “The best we can do is ask jurors for their honest self-assessment.” Assistant U.S.

Attorney William Weinreb told Bruck prosecutors aren’t trying to delude themselves that no one on the panel will have heard of the terrorist attack or have an opinion as to the 21-year-old Tsarnaev’s culpability. “The goal,” Weinreb said, “is simply to ferret out those who can go through a trial suspending their preconceived notions.” Based on the information in the Tsarnaev team’s motion, attorney Elizabeth A. But let it happen away from here.” I understand only too well that we have come to see the Tsarnaev trial as a logical extension of the “Boston Strong” ethos that sprang from the carnage on Boylston Street and infused itself into our consciousness.

Even before filing their motion on Thursday, defense lawyers, especially David Bruck, and to a lesser extent Miriam Conrad and Judy Clarke, had been sparring with the judge, suggesting his questioning of prospective jurors is too vague and not nearly vigorous enough to elicit signs of bias from those exposed to so much publicity in the case. As Bruck put it Thursday, before the latest batch of 11 prospective jurors were questioned, the way that the judge has interviewed the jurors, asking them if they can suspend their preconceived notions about the case, is glossing over the potential for bias. “So the question, ‘Can you put that aside?’ asks them to do a very sterile and meaningless exercise,” Bruck said. “What is happening here is not adequate and will not provide for a fair and impartial jury.” He added, “We do contend this case can’t be tried in Boston. Tsarnaev’s brother, Tamerlan, who is believed to have participated in the bombing and died after a night of mayhem. “My friend was there and got blown up,” another prospective juror wrote in an answer on the questionnaire. “Additionally, her child was severely wounded and is still dealing with residual surgeries.” Yet another wrote that a friend had lost both legs and that the friend’s daughter had been hurt, adding, “Wore Boston Strong sweatshirt to jury duty today.” At this rate, the defense wrote, “prejudice and personal connections are so pervasive, the remnants from which a jury can be cobbled together are not representative of the community in any sense.” Judge O’Toole has said that if finding an impartial jury proves too difficult, he will reassess his position on moving the trial. More significant for the defense’s chance of pulling off a last-minute venue change, however, was Judge O’Toole’s reaction to the defense claims, and they were hardly agreeable. “It’s a problem we face commonly,” O’Toole said, referring to the difficulty of sitting jurors in a high-profile case.

He also criticized the defense team, saying that its disclosure of information found in the confidential questionnaires was improper, and he ordered sealed the motion that included responses from the jurors. Yesterday, they presented a compelling picture of the roiling emotions infecting that universe of 1,373 people who answered a call to sit in judgment of their client.

As for preconceived notions shaped by publicity or human interaction, “There is no scientific way to answer how…a juror will stick to them or be open to alter them at trial. Can they do that faithfully, without requiring the defendant to prove he’s not guilty?” The judge then seemed to answer his own question, telling Bruck, “I understand your view on it. He is accused of 30 crimes — including 17 capital crimes — for allegedly working with his brother, Tamerlan, to plan and carry out the 2013 attack, which killed three people and injured more than 260. I think the way we’ve been handling it is proper.” “The focus of voir dire should be to probe the jurors’ preconceived notion of guilt,” she said, not simply to instruct them not to feel that way. “The goal of voir dire is not to extract a promise, or to order them to put aside their presumptions,” but to find the basis of those presumptions. “Simply put,” they wrote, “the presumption of prejudice precludes both actual and apparent impartiality and undermines public confidence in the proceedings.

He has pleaded not guilty to all counts. “Eastern Massachusetts has a long and well-chronicled history of opposition to the death penalty,” said Daniel S.

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