Judge Rules Boston Marathon Bomber Trial Will Begin January 5

In this courtroom sketch, Boston Marathon bombing suspect Dzhokhar Tsarnaev is depicted sitting in federal court in Boston Thursday, Dec. 18, 2014, for a final hearing before his trial begins in January. Tsarnaev is charged with the April 2013 attack that killed three people and injured more than 260. He could face the death penalty if convicted. (PHOTO CREDIT: Jane Flavell Collins/AP)

A federal judge on Wednesday ruled that the trial of the accused Boston Marathon bomber will begin next week as planned, and it will take place in Boston.

On New Year’s Eve, Judge George O’Toole denied motions by lawyers for Dzhokhar Tsarnaev to change the venue and to delay the start of the trial.

As a result, jury selection is set to begin Monday at the district courthouse in South Boston.

Mr. Tsarnaev’s lawyers had cited extensive pre-trial publicity that they argued would make it impossible for him to receive a fair trial in the city. They also noted that, as currently scheduled, the penalty phase of the trial would likely occur during the two-year anniversary of the attack.

Two bombs went off at the finish line of the 2013 Boston Marathon, killing three people and wounding more than 260 in an act of terrorism that stunned the country. Police arrested Tsarnaev after a three-day manhunt and a shootout in which Tsarnaev’s older brother, Tamerlan, was killed.

If found guilty, Tsarnaev, 21, could face the death penalty. In the penalty phase of the trial the jury would have to decide, unanimously, if Tsarnaev should be sentenced to death or given life in prison.

Wednesday’s decision marks the second time Judge O’Toole has denied defense motions to move the trial outside of Boston. For many legal observers, it is not surprising that he chose again to keep the trial in Boston. The judge said in his first decision in September to keep the trial in Boston that, while the case has attracted significant media attention, the defense team failed to show that the hype would prejudice a fair, impartial jury.

“I can’t think of what’s happened in the interim that would cause [O’Toole] to reverse himself,” says Rosanna Cavallaro, a law professor at Suffolk University and former state assistant attorney general. “I think the question has been well argued already. He wasn’t asleep the last time.”

Instead, she adds, the elapsed time made it even less likely that the trial be relocated. In particular, the court has been preparing for what is expected to be a long jury selection process. O’Toole has said he plans to call up to 1,000 potential jurors from across eastern Massachusetts to the court house next month, and prosecution and defense lawyers have been negotiating procedures for how potential jurors will be questioned and selected.

“What has changed is we’ve moved forward. We’ve created expectations, procedures are in place,” Ms. Cavallaro said. “Those would have to be dismantled [if the trial was moved].”

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SOURCE: The Christian Science Monitor
Henry Gass

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