All White Jury Chosen in Dzhokhar Tsarnaev Trial

The jury has been selected and opening arguments begin tomorrow in the death penalty trial of Dzhokhar Tsarnaev, charged with the Boston Marathon bombings. According to media reports, all of the 18 jurors and alternates are white. (More than 1,300 people were initially summoned for potential jury service in the case.)

The defense filed a motion a few weeks ago challenging the jury pool, saying the juror groups had been reordered by the court resulting in a statistically lower pool of minority jurors. [More...]

From Docket Entry #1080:

Here, the original numbered random pool order list was modified when new, different numbers were assigned at the time jurors reported to complete written questionnaires. This re-ordering, apparently based on non-random factors such as arrival time, had systemic effects on the order. The re-ordering was not random and had non-neutral effects on cognizable groups.

The defense expert submitted a report that included this (Docket Entry #1080-1):

On average, the re-ordering has caused potential African-American jurors to move back 43 positions while potential White jurors have remained essentially the same by moving 3 positions up in order.

...Comparing the re-ordering to the original ordering, in the first 94 qualified jurors, there are zero potential African-American jurors in the re-ordering but there would have been 5 potential African-American jurors in the original ordering.

...In the most current Census data, African-Americans make up 6.14% of the Eastern Division jury eligible population. African-Americans make up 4.25% of the current Qualified Jury Wheel. The absolute disparity for African-Americans shows 1.89% under representation. The comparative
disparity shows 30.73% under representation or that over a quarter of the African-Americans are missing from the Qualified Jury Wheel. The under
representation of African-Americans is statistically significant.

The media continues to portray the defense strategy as a ploy for sympathy. I think you will hear Judy Clark tell the jury at some point the defense isn't seeking its sympathy, but its understanding.

Will Dzhokhar Tsarnaev get a fair trial? Will any media outlets report the proceedings accurately and without bias? And critically, was the defense able to seat any jurors that are unlikely to vote for death in the event of a conviction?

The defense is not arguing Dzhokar was not involved in the bombing, but that his actions were the result of his brother's influence over him. This doesn't negate guilt, but could be critical, along with his youth and unstable home life, as a mitigating factor in the penalty phase. I expect the defense to introduce the theme early and often during the guilt phase. Once opening arguments are done, I doubt I'll follow the trial closely until the death penalty phase.

If you are following along, try to follow a reporter who provides as much coverage of the defense as it does the prosecution. You won't want to miss Judy Clark's opening. She is a true master. Here are some snippets from her opening in the case of Susan Smith. If you don't remember the case:

Mrs. Smith, 23, confessed on Nov. 3 to rolling her car down a boat ramp and into the lake as Michael, 3, and Alex, 14 months, sat strapped in their car seats. For nine days after the children were killed on Oct. 25, as cameras clicked and national sympathy grew, she maintained that a young black man had stolen the children in a carjacking.

The Times' description of her opening:

[Judy Clarke] said she would not try to convince the jury that she was insane, only deeply troubled and mentally ill. She knows what she did was wrong, and it tortures her.

...Deep depression and a sense of failure in a life that included molestation at the hands of her stepfather, the suicide of her father and her own suicide attempts -- twice when she was in her teens -- pushed Mrs. Smith to the edge of the lake, to kill herself and her children, Ms. Clarke said.

... At the last second, her body willed itself out of the car, and she lived and her toddlers died, Ms. Clarke said.

"When we talk about Susan Smith's life, we are not trying to gain your sympathy," Ms. Clarke said. "We're trying to gain your understanding."

How did she explain the outrageous lie about the non-existent black man?

"Her lie is wrong," Ms. Clarke said. "It's a shame." But, she added, "you will see it is a child-like lie," from a damaged person.

In order to understand the crime, Judy told them:

They would try to show how the sum of Mrs. Smith's life had created that moment when she killed.

Judy tried the Smith case with David Bruck, another outstanding capital defense lawyer, who is also co-counsel for Tsarnaev.

Again, keep in mind the defense is not contesting guilt. They are trying to save Jahar's life. If anyone can do it, Judy Clarke can. Here's some more information on Judy, and why defense lawyers call her "Saint Judy." Here's an article referring to her as a "one woman dream team."

Those who have seen her in action say her knowledge of the law, her passion for justice and her ability to empathize with clients who are charged with the most violent crimes make her a unique force in the courtroom.

In addition to Susan Smith, her high-profile cases include: 9/11 co-conspirator Zacarias Moussaoui, Unabomber Ted Kaczynski, Atlanta "Olympic Park" bomber Eric Rudolph, and Jared Loughner. All were charged with the death penalty, and none received it. All are serving life without parole.

< DOJ Report Confirms Ferguson's Racially Biased Policing | Tsarnaev: Judy Clarke's Opening Statement >
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  • Display: Sort:
    I'm not feeling any room for humor, (5.00 / 3) (#10)
    by Peter G on Wed Mar 04, 2015 at 01:31:02 PM EST
    even black humor, in this situation.

    that comment was deleted (5.00 / 1) (#12)
    by Jeralyn on Wed Mar 04, 2015 at 04:11:03 PM EST
    Isn't the relevant minority here (none / 0) (#1)
    by oculus on Wed Mar 04, 2015 at 03:13:27 AM EST

    Caucasian (none / 0) (#3)
    by jbindc on Wed Mar 04, 2015 at 07:03:13 AM EST
    From the actual Caucus region.

    Slight correction (none / 0) (#11)
    by Zorba on Wed Mar 04, 2015 at 01:41:33 PM EST
    It's "Caucasus" region.
    And, yes, they are Caucasian.  Related most closely to the Ingush people of Ingushetia.
    They are also related, although not as closely, to the Georgians (the country, not the American state).
    And it is certainly true that they are not Slavs.

    I wonder how they determine (none / 0) (#4)
    by CST on Wed Mar 04, 2015 at 10:05:58 AM EST
    white in that headline, and whether or not it includes any Muslims.

    It does strike me as a bit odd just because Boston is less than 50% white.


    It was reported that also in this case (none / 0) (#6)
    by Amiss on Wed Mar 04, 2015 at 11:55:29 AM EST
    it was readily admitted here locally (I now live near Boston, not my favorite place to live, and it has nothing to do with the trial) that he was the bomber in the opening arguments this morning.

    NPR reported this morning (none / 0) (#7)
    by Peter G on Wed Mar 04, 2015 at 12:39:47 PM EST
    that the trial judge has issued an order limiting the defense plan to introduce evidence at the guilt/innocence phase of coercion and pressure by Dzhokhar's older brother, ruling that this topic is relevant only to the life/death decision ("penalty phase").  This could be a legal error on at least some counts.  While duress is not legally recognized as a defense to murder charges, it seems to me that it is relevant to whether Dzhokar entered voluntarily into a conspiracy (agreement) to commit any of the charged offenses.

    interesting. i wonder if that judge just opened (none / 0) (#8)
    by cpinva on Wed Mar 04, 2015 at 01:04:37 PM EST
    the door to an appeal of an almost certain guilty verdict? coercion has always been a valid defense in the anglo-norman legal narrative. for a trial judge to (seemingly) arbritarily restrict counsel from asserting it (assuming it's done in good faith), seems a bit of an overreach by the bench.

    jury of his peers (none / 0) (#13)
    by thomas rogan on Thu Mar 05, 2015 at 08:28:35 PM EST
    The defendant is decidedly caucasian.  I doubt that five percent of the local people are Moslems, so one wouldn't even expect one of the eighteen to be Moslem from a statistical point of view.