Dzhokhar Tsarnaev deserves a fair trial for his alleged role in the Boston Marathon bombings of April 15, 2013, where three people were killed and over 260 others injured, some seriously with permanent disabilities.
However, this will not be possible if the trial is held in Boston. Federal Judge George O’Toole Jr., who rejected for the third time recently the defense motions to move the trial, is imperiling the opportunity for justice to be applied because impaneling a fair and impartial jury is near impossible at ground zero- Boston.
Here is where Tsarnaev and his older brother Tarmerlan, killed by police officers days later, are accused of committing crimes against humanity in retaliation against the United States for its role in prosecuting wars in Iraq and Afghanistan.
The proximity of those in the region who live here to the defining tragedy and the harrowing events that followed over a few days after leading to a murder of an MIT police officer, street shootouts, a lockdown and terrorization of an entire neighborhood in Watertown has been potentially seared in the minds of the persons being evaluated to adjudicate the case as jurors.
What makes the risk of a miscarriage of justice even more dramatic is that the same jury that will pass judgment on the degree of complicity, if it is realized, will be charged to apply the standard of punishment to include either death or life in prison.
This risk is lessened if a jury is impaneled in a region of the country that was not directly affected by the traumatic events. Otherwise, if the trial is held in Boston, an impartial evaluation of the evidence will be impossible by those who likely were galvanized alongside many others in a collective movement of solidarity and defiance against anarchy known as Boston Strong.
Judge O’Toole is subscribing to a tentative theory that eventually by culling 70 potential jurors and with interventions by both prosecutors and a defense attorneys, a fair and impartial body of 12 jurors and six alternates will be realized. This is flawed thinking because the likelihood of some of those jurors who will harbor resentment or be strongly moved by a bias of forgiveness after being indirect victims (or know victims) may not be sufficiently discovered in the impaneling process despite the rigors being promoted by the judge.
And in the end, the instability of the process can produce an unwanted result. It is possible that either the degree of guilt — if guilt is determined — may be excessive or insufficient and the subsequent sentencing if applicable may not be appropriately aligned. In the worst possible scenario, guilt to be determined by the case could be shuttered on a technicality of the jury being corrupted by a myriad of conditions.
In this case, justice can be realized but only if the entire affair is transported very far away from Boston.