BOSTON – As a judge questioned prospective jurors Friday in the trial of Boston Marathon bombing suspect Dzhokhar Tsarnaev, one woman described her struggle to try to push aside a haunting image she saw in the days after the deadly attack.
"The image of him putting the backpack behind that little boy," she said, describing a video authorities say shows Tsarnaev placing a bomb near 8-year-old Martin Richard, one of three people killed when twin bombs exploded near the marathon finish line April 15, 2013. More than 260 people were injured.
The woman mentioned the video when asked if she could be fair and decide whether Tsarnaev is guilty based only on evidence she heard in court, not things reported or shown by the media.
"Actually, I think I could be fair, but I do have this image in my mind that I can't deny, to be perfectly honest," said the prospective juror, who works as an assistant to a professor emeritus at Harvard.
The process of picking a jury for the case continued Friday even as a federal appeals court considers a push by Tsarnaev's lawyers to move the trial out of Massachusetts. The 1st U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals has not indicated when it will rule on Tsarnaev's change-of-venue request.
The defense argues that Tsarnaev cannot find jurors who can be fair and impartial in Massachusetts, citing the emotional impact the bombings had on residents and the many people who have personal connections to the case. Prosecutors say Judge George O'Toole Jr.'s individual questioning of prospective jurors is successfully weeding out people who are biased against Tsarnaev.
O'Toole has provisionally qualified at least 61 people he believes are capable of being fair and impartial. Once he qualifies 70 people, prosecutors and Tsarnaev's lawyers will be allowed to eliminate 23 people each for strategic reasons. A panel of 12 jurors and six alternates will be chosen to hear the case.
Tsarnaev, 21, faces the possibility of the death penalty if convicted.
Here are some of the things prospective jurors had to say when questioned Friday:
— Juror 603, works in electronic medical records: "I guess I feel like I've already seen evidence so to pretend that I've never seen that would be difficult. I think I'm a reasonable enough person so I'd be able to not judge him on that."
— Juror 605, works as a schoolteacher, retired from the U.S. Navy. He was questioned by Tsarnaev's lawyer about a posting on his Facebook page that said, "It's God's job to judge the terrorists. It's our job to arrange the meeting. — U.S Marines." Juror 605 replied: "I have formed the opinion that a convicted terrorist should receive the death penalty. They're the enemy of my country."