The first hurdle in the Boston Marathon trial begins today as the jury selection process gets underway. Dzhokhar Tsarnaev is facing numerous charges of terrorism related to the April 15, 2013 finish-line bombing. In the coming weeks and months I suspect there will be those who will refuse to write or mention his name, however like it or not this is his trial. And no, I am most certainly not a lawyer.
In what appears to be a slam-dunk of a case, the toughest part may be getting a jury. There are two huge obstacles to be overcome. First is finding a panel of 12 who can offer an objective, open-minded approach. Given the immense international media coverage of the bombing even a change of venue, as requested by the defense lawyers, would have made this a tricky task.
But it gets even trickier. As Tsarnaev, if found guilty, may face the death penalty the jury needs to be “Death-Qualified”. That is to say adamant opponents and proponents of the death penalty are disqualified – assuming they make their position clear from the outset.
So we’re looking for 12 men and women who have yet to form an opinion on Tsarnaev’s guilt or innocence and who profess no strong feelings one way or the other on the death penalty. Good luck!
Assuming the trial gets going and a guilty verdict is returned by the jury, does this open the door to all kinds of appeals down the road based on technicalities? In essence, is it possible for Tsarnaev to get a fair trial as required by law? There will of course be those who will say he doesn’t deserve one. That he didn’t give his victims or their families a fair shake. And if the US justice system followed the rules of barroom brawls they are absolutely right. But the full extent of the law is applicable to all, and its process, however frustrating at times, must be allowed to progress.