BOSTON – The first week of jury selection in the Boston Marathon bombing trial is wrapping up. Here's what you need to know about where the federal death penalty case stands and what's next:
Dzhokhar Tsarnaev, 21, is accused of carrying out bombings near the finish line of the world-renowned race on April 15, 2013. Three people were killed in the blasts; more than 260 others were injured. Prosecutors say Tsarnaev and his older brother, Tamerlan — ethnic Chechens who moved to the U.S. about a decade before the bombings — planned the attack and set off two bombs in retaliation for U.S. wars in Muslim countries. Tsarnaev also is charged in the killing of an MIT police officer days after the bombings. Tamerlan Tsarnaev was killed in a gun battle with police.
The trial is being held in federal court in Boston. Tsarnaev is charged under the federal death penalty statute. Massachusetts abolished the state death penalty in 1984. The trial is expected to last three to four months.
THE JURY POOL
About 1,200 prospective jurors from eastern Massachusetts were sent summonses in the case. This week, they were called in groups of 200 to appear before U.S. District Judge George O'Toole Jr. O'Toole gave them initial instructions. They also filled out lengthy questionnaires that will be used to weed out people with obvious conflicts.
Tsarnaev has been introduced to each group of potential jurors. Sometimes, he has given an awkward nod to the group; other times, he has looked down. While the judge gives instructions, Tsarnaev has picked at his beard, quietly drummed his fingers on the table and looked at the judge. He appears self-conscious and has only occasionally looked at the prospective jurors.
Only a handful of bombing victims have watched jury selection. Jaymi Cohen, a Tufts University lacrosse player who went to the marathon with some of her teammates to cheer on the runners, watched the proceedings Wednesday afternoon. U.S. Attorney Carmen Ortiz sat with Cohen and her father. Cohen declined to comment.
WHAT HAPPENS NEXT
Tsarnaev's lawyers and federal prosecutors will spend the next few days reviewing juror questionnaires before individual questioning begins on Jan. 15. Twelve jurors and six alternates will be chosen. That process is expected to take three weeks. The judge told prospective jurors that he expects the trial to begin with opening statements on Jan. 26.