Judge George A. O’Toole said to defense attorney Miriam Conrad: I’ll make you a believer. We know, of course, he was referring to the start of the trial, but I wonder … Was he was really referring to having things his own way, rushed and hurried? This appears now to apply O’Toole’s determination to seat a jury in Massachusetts by January 26th, come hell or high water.
On January 14th, one day prior to the start of voir dire, in Document 954, Order Denying Defendant’s Motion to Suspend Jury Impanelment, O’Toole said, “My detailed review of juror questionnaires in preparation for voir dire has so far confirmed, rather than undermined, my judgment that a fair and impartial jury can and will be chosen to determine the issues in this case.” The judge is ready. Determined.
O’Toole started the second phase of jury selection on January 15th addressing the potential jurors, “It is necessary to question each of you about your feelings about the death penalty.”
After the first two interviews, Judy Clarke spoke up. She wanted to know more about the second juror’s feelings on Tsarnaev’s guilt and his stance on the death penalty. O’Toole says no, “I think we have adequate information about that.”
The third potential juror is interviewed. Bruck says he doesn’t think they’ll have a fair jury unless jurors are asked if they could impose a life sentence on WMD charge. Even prosecutors want the judge to get more specific, come right out and ask jurors, “Can you sentence someone to death?” Yet O’Toole pushed back, doesn’t want to re-ask questions that have already been answered on the questionnaires. David Bruck argued vehemently that the judge needs to ask jurors more detail about whether they would impose the death penalty and about what they’ve read. Finally Bruck exclaimed with another quote I won’t soon forget, “We’re supposed to have a fair trial! The trial is not supposed to over already!” Bruck also said, “There is such a pervasive sense that he did it in this community” and “It’s almost like jurors are skipping over guilt phase and focusing on death penalty.” That’s right Mr. Bruck, everyone is focusing on the death penalty. Putting the cart before the horse just a bit?
As far as the current interviews go, here’s my take on what we have so far. They have interviewed 34 jurors in the first two days.
- Fifteen of these jurors said they either thought Dzhokhar was guilty or the juror could not impose the death penalty. These fifteen, for these reasons, are not qualified, in my opinion. That leaves nineteen possibly qualified.
- Three more jurors “changed” their opinion about being able to impose the death penalty during their interview. They were possibly so undecided as to what they should do that they finally agreed, they could do it. Would the court really seat jurors that might vote for the death penalty, depending on which day it is? These three wishy-washy jurors are also not qualified, in my opinion. That leaves sixteen.
- One juror has a pregnant fiance and can’t leave her alone.
- One has a financial hardship.
- One said it would be a hardship for his clients.
- One’s husband is a MA State Trooper and she felt she couldn’t be impartial.
- One has a medical problem related to her eye.
- One cried during the interview and talked of meeting Martin Richard.
- One has anxiety when sitting too long.
Seven more jurors that will probably be excused for various reasons. That leaves just nine. Nine possibles out of 34 interviewed. Nine jurors found in two days. Another two, maybe three full days and they might find the other 9 they need. They MIGHT make it by January 26th. But what kind of jurors with they have? Rushed and hurried, must make the January 26th openings, O’Toole. Jurors that are not sure, but might possibly be “fair and impartial.”
(I certainly did not attend the juror interviews, but simply quoting multiple similar tweets from reporters who were there.)