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Boston Bombing News: “Real progress” or “Quixotic undertaking”?

Many thanks to pbszebra for faithfully passing on daily Tweets from some of the more responsible journalists attending the Tsarnaev trial. (Tweets in bold followed by my comments.)

“Judge O’Toole acknowledges Tsarnaev jury questioning is going slower than anticipated, but is not discouraged. ‘Making real progress.'”

MissieB31 retweeted: “O’Toole hired cos of #Mahenna. Which will break first? Ortiz’s leash or O’Toole’s resolve?”

“They’re calling 9000 potential jurors for James Holmes trial in Colo., compared to just 1350 for #Tsarnaev.” … “They are up to Juror 246 the 109th to be interviewed. That means teams have gone into second panel from 1,373.”

“Finding fair jurors in Boston a quixotic undertaking” masslawyersweekly.com

Prospective jurors in Boston via @AnnoCNN: “We all know he’s guilty so quit wasting everybody’s time.”

Common sense says this trial should be moved out of Boston. At the very least, Dzhokhar Tsarnaev should get the same chance for an impartial jury as is being afforded to “Joker” killer Holmes, who shot up a theatre full of children watching a Batman movie.

But Judge George O’Toole has repeatedly thrown common sense to the winds.

O’T gained the status of “terror expert judge” when he presided over the Tarek Mehanna trial and listened stone-faced to Tarek’s impassioned and moving statement about why he translated Al Qaeda writings into English. Perhaps before he was assigned to the Tsarnaev trial, someone should have given O’Toole a voir dire examination to examine his core beliefs.

“On first day of individual jury examination, O’Toole asked all questions. Starting Friday [the 9th?] without explanation, lawyers allowed to follow up.”

“Both government and Tsarnaev’s team are trying to vet out jurors who can’t follow ‘innocent until proven guilty.’ It’s not just the defense.”

Sounds a bit like the defense has been holding the judge’s feet to the fire. But of course O’T must stick to the letter of the law in spite of his obvious bias, treading delicately to avoid being overturned on appeal.

“Bruck: ‘For many people the trial of guilt or innocence is over, it took place in the news media.'” … “Tsarnaev defense says 68% of jurors called believe he’s guilty without hearing ‘a shred of evidence.'”

Juror 59: ‘I feel like even if I was shown evidence, I already feel like he’s guilty and that he should have the death penalty.”

“Seeing the Boylston St. surveillance video from Lord & Taylor helped 186 form opinion that Tsarnaev is guilty, along with him in the boat.” … “Juror 116: ‘He was there, he was on the street, he was in the boat so I assume he’s guilty.'”

On the face of it, the dramatic events of that week in April 2013 were pretty persuasive, and the mainstream media has taken full advantage of the drama. They have never bothered to dig deeper, to examine the many, many inconsistencies in the story. That job was left to the “conspiracy theorists.”

Yes, Dzhokhar was on the street. So were hundreds of other people. Yes, he had a backpack (which did not match the FBI’s own description of the lethal bag). Did he walk back and forth and drop the pack? Genck’s Criminal Complaint tells it one way. The NatGeo video reconstruction, which Juror 186 mistakenly took to be the real thing, tells it another. Go figure.

How did he end up in the boat? The Feds claim they feared the brothers would “run” after being outed on TV. Yes, Dzhokhar “ran.” He ran to his car and drove 60 miles north from Dartmouth to Boston, running directly into the arms of the Boston police. I’m guessing he has told his defense counsel the real story of the brothers’ actions that night. I look forward to hearing it.

“Some people seem ‘very eager’ to be on the Boston bombing jury.” … “Defense tells court [it] fears stealth jurors who want conviction ‘and perhaps to bask in glow of public adulation following verdict.'”

“Juror 244: ‘I kinda like conspiracy theories.’ Judge: ‘Let’s move on.'”

I kinda yearn for a stealth juror on the innocence side. Isn’t it too bad that Dzhokhar-friendly Juror 244, who admitted to visiting “conspiracy” sites, couldn’t have been a bit less honest? (I know, I know. That isn’t how the justice system is supposed to work.)

Numerous jurors have said they already believe he is guilty, but “think” they can put their feelings aside and be impartial. Bruck calls this sort of speculation a “meaningless mental exercise.” Conrad is trying to tease out the ones who can actually be open-minded. She “wants to focus on each juror’s strength of belief, why they believe him guilty, and why they say they would be able to put that aside.”

“Juror 129 ‘not for or against the death penalty, what worries me is would I be too wishy washy.'”

“Most are really thoughtful and also very conflicted re: how they feel re: sentencing someone to die.”

The few jurors, so far, who are thoughtful enough to be genuinely open-minded about guilt or innocence, are often absolutely opposed to the death penalty and thus disqualified. I am reminded of MargoS’s analysis that a death penalty trial by its very nature slants the jury in the direction of finding the defendant guilty.

“Judge puts damper on defense detailed questioning of #Tsarnaev jurors. Bruck protests, says some ‘may harbor biases they’re not disclosing.'”

“Conrad grilling juror 251 on social media posting about Muslims. [In] photo from Calvin and Hobbs cartoon strip. Calvin holds American flag and is urinating on something with Arabic writing. Defense asks [251’s] opinions on Islam. ‘I know nothing about it,’ he says. Prosecution objects, calls it ‘badgering the witness.'”

“Two strongly pro death penalty Tsarnaev jurors questioned have expressed strong antiMuslim feelings as well.”

“Tsarnaev juror dismissed for profane tweet following Boston bombing manhunt.”

How can Islamophobia NOT be a factor in this trial?

Prospective jurors have been asked if they have followed the attacks in Paris. Some say they haven’t. Some say they have, but it won’t affect their opinions in this trial. I’m not sure I believe this. In the “Europe Strong” event, a massive crowd (ironically including governmental terrorist Netanyahu) linked arms to demonstrate against Muslim terrorism. That TV footage looked not unlike the anniversary photo of the BMB victims. How could this not stir emotions?

I also wonder about ISIS. And, “American Sniper.” On one hand, we have so-called Muslims cutting heads off. On the other, a movie hero (a so-called Christian) reveling in the joy of killing Iraqi woman and children. His real-life model, stone-cold killer Chris Kyle, wrote that basically they all deserved to die, and he wishes he could have killed more. Since the release of this movie, threats against Muslims in America have tripled.

Global Islamophobia aside, the Boston jury pool does have a realistic reason to feel angry at the suspect being presented to them as the person who attacked their city. Is it even possible to seat a jury in Boston, and if so, can they truly set their emotions aside … especially with Judge O’T in charge?

News items: The defense filed a sealed reply to O’T’s angry response to their third Change of Venue request. Apparently they are citing, in addition to jury questionnaire responses, a collection of harsh juror Tweets and Facebook posts which once again prove that a CofV is needed.

In another interesting move, the Boston Globe’s legal team has filed a motion asking for public access to the Court’s legal rulings on challenges for cause. They just want to know how many jurors are still in, and how many are definitely out. So far the judge has kept this a deep dark secret.

 

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