Jury Nearly Set for Boston Marathon Bombing Trial

     BOSTON (CN) – After five unsuccessful bids to change the venue for the trial of the Boston Marathon bombing suspect, eight weeks of jury selection wraps up today.
     Opening statements are expected to begin Wednesday.
     Dzhokhar Tsarnaev, 21, stands accused of killing three people and injuring 264 others with a pair of homemade pressure-cooker bombs left at the Boston Marathon’s finish line on April 15, 2013.
     The government has also charged Tsarnaev with the fatal shooting of Sean Collier, a 27-year-old police officer for the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, during the weeklong manhunt for Tsarnaev and his brother Tamerlan after the largest terrorist attack in the United States since Sept. 11, 2001.
     During a confrontation in Watertown, authorities say three officers were in the process of handcuffing Tamerlan when Dzhokhar got behind the wheel of a Mercedes he carjacked and drove at them. Prosecutors say he ultimately ran over his brother, “seriously injuring him and contributing to his death.”
     Federal prosecutors describe Dzhokhar as a naturalized U.S. citizen and say his brother Tamerlan was a Russian citizen. There is no mention otherwise about their reported background as ethnic Chechens who arrived in the United States over a decade ago as refugees from Kyrgyzstan.
Evidence of Dzhokhar’s adherence to radical Islam is ubiquitous in the indictment, which also names the defendant as Jahar Tsarni.
     Though jury selection began on Jan. 5, the road to trial has been a precarious one, beset by multiple weather delays and attempts from Tsarnaev’s defense to have the trial moved to Washington, D.C., where they claimed a jury would be more impartial.
     The 1st Circuit upheld the rejection of Tsarnaev’s latest petition on Friday.
     “It is no surprise that people in general, and especially the well-informed, will be aware of it,” Judge Sandra Lynch wrote for the federal appeals court. “Knowledge, however, does not equate to disqualifying prejudice. Distinguishing between the two is at the heart of the jury selection process.”
     The 80-page opinion also chides Tsarnaev for arguing that bias against him is exclusive to Boston. “Indeed, his own polling data shows that, in his preferred venue, Washington D.C., 96.5 percent of survey respondents had heard of the bombings at the Boston Marathon,” Lynch wrote.
     NPR reported that Tsarnaev’s defense will focus on trying to avoid the death penalty by pinning blame for the attacks on older brother Tamerlan.
     Seventeen of the 30 counts against Tsarnaev carry the death penalty.
     U.S. District Judge George O’Toole Jr. has qualified approximately 70 jurors, and a panel of 12 jurors and six alternates is expected to be selected Tuesday.
     Killed in the bombings were Martin Richard, 8; restaurant manager Krystle Campbell, 29; and graduate student Lingzi Lu, 23.
     Tsarnaev is represented by federal public defenders Miriam Conrad, Timothy Watkins, William Fick and Judy Clarke.

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