Below is an interesting article by Adam Liptak. In the article, Liptak examines the practice of judges overriding the death penalty decisions of jurors. The article also discusses the possibility that the SCT may examine this practice sometime this term by granting cert to Scott v. Alabama, No. 14-8189, and Lockhart v. Alabama, No. 14-8194. To read prior posts on this topic go here.
A three-judge panel of the First Circuit Court of Appeals has ruled that the trial of Dzhokar Tsarnaev can be held in Boston. Defense attorneys for Tsarnaev had requested a change of venue arguing that because of extensive pre-trial publicity about the Boston Marathon bombing Tsarnaev could not get a fair trial in Boston. To read the opinion by the First Circuit go here. The question of whether Tsarnaev's trial should be moved has also been debated on the Op-Ed page of the NY Times.
Today, the federal judge in the Boston Marathon bombing trial denied the third request by Dzhokhar Tsarnaev to have his trial moved (for background information on prior motions to change venue go here). In denying this third request for a change of venue, the federal judge stated,
“Contrary to the defendant’s assertions, the voir dire process is successfully identifying potential jurors who are capable of serving as fair and impartial jurors in this case...In light of that ongoing experience, the third motion to change venue has even less, not more, merit than the prior ones.”
The decision to keep Tasrnaev's trial in Boston has caught the interest of several folks and has even led to a debate in the NY Times Opinion Page.
It should come as no surprise that it will take some time to find 24 (12 alternatives the most I have ever seen) impartial jurors for the James Holmes death penalty trial. The article below highlights the myriad of excuses that prospective jurors will use to avoid serving on this trial. Full disclosure, I am quoted in the article.
This article, in which I am quoted, talks about the large number of jurors summoned for James Holmes' murder trial. In fact, this may be the largest number of jurors ever summoned in the history of the United States for one trial.
CENTENNIAL, Colo.—Court officials here are summoning one of the largest jury pools ever assembled in the country as they prepare for a trial that could determine whether James Holmes will be executed for the 2012 shooting deaths of 12 people at a Colorado movie theater.
The lawyers in the death penalty trial of Dzhokhar Tsarnaev do not believe that the court will find 12 impartial jurors in New England much less Massachusetts and want the case moved to Washington, D.C. But the judge in the case has consistently ruled against the defense and denied repeated requests to move the trial, saying that it "stretches the imagination to suggest that an impartial jury cannot be successfully selected from this large pool of potential jurors.”
It will be hard to find a juror with the courage to acquit knowing that he or she has to return to a community where this bombing has caused so much pain.
Of course, the judge could change his mind prior to the start of trial; however, this is an unlikely outcome, which is unfortunate for the defendant and those interested in safeguarding the rights of anyone accused of a crime.
To serve on a criminal trial, a juror need not be ignorant of the underlying facts surrounding the case. This is as true today as in 1807 when Vice President Aaron Burr was acquitted of treason. However, jurors, even those with knowledge of the facts, must be able to lay aside their opinions and render a verdict based on the evidence presented in court -- a close to impossible task for this highly publicized case that hits so close to home and personally touches so many from Massachusetts, especially those in Boston. One has to look no further than the online comments section of any local newspaper to gauge the feelings of Massachusetts' residents on the defendant’s guilt or innocence. Lastly, even if the judge could find 12 impartial jurors, which one would feel comfortable or have the courage to acquit knowing that he or she has to return to a community where this bombing has caused so much pain?
Jury selection begins today in the death penalty trial of Dzhokhar Tsarnaev who is facing 30 criminal charges related to homicide and terrorism. Tsarnaev is alleged to have carried out the Boston Marathon bombing with his brother, Tamerlan Tsarnaev, who died in a shoot out with the police.