Dzhokhar Tsarnaev Trial: Jury Selection Begins

Prospective jurors arrived at the federal courthouse in Boston this morning to fill out lengthy juror questionnaires for the trial of Dzhokhar Tsarnaev.

In December, the Government and defense agreed on the explanatory remarks the judge should make when explaining the process to them. While the judge may have made some modifications, you can can read them here to get a general idea of what they were told.

Here is a good primer from the ABA on jury questionnaires.[More...]

The questionnaire is not public. To give you an idea of what questions are asked in a terror trial, here is the questionnaire that the jury filled out in the Chicago trial of Tawwahur Rana (co-defendant of David Coleman Headley in the Mumbai Bombing case. Headley pleaded guilty before trial and cooperated.)

When the jurors have finished, the court will provide copies to both parties, who along with their jury consultants, will have about a week to review them. Many will be excluded "for cause" -- hardship, hearing problems, committed anti-death penalty position, etc. The remainder will be called back to court in groups starting next week at which time they will be questioned as a group, and individually, by the judge. The judge has been very vague on whether the attorneys will be allowed to question the jurors. In one recent order, he wrote they may be allowed to ask some questions "as appropriate."

The jurors will be referred to by number, rather than name. Once the jury is selected and trial begins, which should be in about 3 weeks, the jurors will not be sequestered.

< Sunday Night TV and Open Thread | Dershowitz Goes to War Against Jane Doe #3 >
  • The Online Magazine with Liberal coverage of crime-related political and injustice news

  • Contribute To TalkLeft

  • Display: Sort:
    No Proof This Improves the Quality of Justice (5.00 / 1) (#1)
    by RickyJim on Mon Jan 05, 2015 at 07:01:41 PM EST
    Everywhere else on the planet that has juries, each side is given a few (like 4 for the prosecution; 5 for the defense in France) peremptory challenges and there is no long invasive questionnaire.  The occupation "jury consultant" is unknown.  Voir dire takes an hour or two, at most.  My blood boils when I read an article about how great jury selection won a case.  The more random the selection is, the better, IMHO.  

    Well not quite everywhere... (none / 0) (#3)
    by gbrbsb on Tue Jan 06, 2015 at 12:21:29 AM EST
    ...at least not in the UK where neither side has peremptory challenges and there's no voire dire in respect of jury selection either as we don't 'select' juries at all. Here selection is random. Most of the service you spend in the jury room with the rest of the 'jury pool' passing the time chatting, reading or watching TV, until you are randomly called to sit which may be once, several times or never in the week or two a service lasts.

    Objecting to a juror ('challenge for cause') is extremely rare since objections have to be based on very powerful reasons such as knowing a defendant, not speaking the language, undisclosed criminal records, etc.

    A short explanation of the UK jury system here and a light hearted tongue in cheek article from the Guardian here on the 10 things a would be juror needs to know.


    Another Amusing Guardian Article (none / 0) (#4)
    by RickyJim on Tue Jan 06, 2015 at 08:17:35 AM EST
    on a judge firing an entire jury for sending to him, during their deliberations, 10 questions whose answers had already been given to them is here.  I can't recall reading of something similar happening in the USA.

    Gosh, yes. Great case to show would be jurors... (none / 0) (#5)
    by gbrbsb on Wed Jan 07, 2015 at 06:34:29 AM EST
     ... how not to deliberate!

    A relatively minor crime but one which attracted a lot of media attention here due to the persons involved. It left 3 high end careers in tatters and raised questions about the validity of the jury system.

    But sure could make for a black comedy movie or maybe even a soap; "The Judge, The Politician, His Wife, His Lesbian Lover & The Jury"! I mean you couldn't make it up; high end politician supporter of christian family values discovered in an adulterous relationship with a lesbian leaves high powered wife for his gay lover who at the same time leaves her same sex civil partner, while his scorned wife in jealous revenge cuts off nose to spite face colluding with a judge to leak 'anonymously, (well, was meant to be anonymously) to the press 7 years before she illegally took her hubby's speeding points to avoid him losing his license and sullying his promising political career. All three landed themselves in jail convicted of attempting to pervert the course of justice!

    And where I live the case was rife gossip since the now ex-judge and jailbird Constance Briscoe was long term lover to a top UK barrister who has a weekend country 'cottage' bang next door to me and who in 2012 was protagonist of another scandal when at 76 he dumped his lover Judge Briscoe for an Oxford law graduate 50 years his junior... maybe why Briscoe helped Pryce reek revenge on her wayward spouse! As I said... you couldn't make it up!  


    On a Related Note (5.00 / 1) (#2)
    by msaroff on Mon Jan 05, 2015 at 10:20:55 PM EST
    I get the sense that the Judge is determined to ensure a conviction, with observers reporting that the judge is strongly signaling that no mention of the defendant's brother, Tamerlan, at trial.

    If true, the fix is in.

    A lot of talk (none / 0) (#6)
    by CST on Wed Jan 07, 2015 at 12:08:22 PM EST
    about the death penalty in the Boston papers these days.  MA prohibits it under state law, but the feds are seeking it in this case.  You can be sure one of the questions relates to that.  I wonder about selecting a jury for a death penalty case where the majority of the population opposes the death penalty under any circumstance.  Seems like it would skew the pool a bit.