BOSTON (AP) — Boston Marathon bombing suspect Dzhokhar Tsarnaev faced a new group of potential jurors Tuesday, the second day of the arduous process of seating a jury in the federal death penalty case.
Tsarnaev looked down at the floor as he walked in to the jury assembly room and later nodded at a group of about 200 citizens from eastern Massachusetts who were called for jury duty at the federal courthouse in Boston.
The man accused of carrying out the deadly 2013 bombings silently drummed his fingers on the defense table and looked at the judge as the potential jurors looked intently at him.
Tsarnaev, 21, faces possible execution if convicted in the attack that killed three people and wounded more than 260 others at the race’s finish line. Prosecutors say he and his brother, now dead, also killed an MIT police officer as they tried to flee days after the bombings.
Jury selection is expected to take at least three weeks as prosecutors and Tsarnaev’s lawyers haggle over more than 1,200 potential jurors to be called. Testimony won’t begin until Jan. 26.
Prospective jurors got their first glimpse of Dzhokhar Tsarnaev on Monday as the scraggily haired defendant fidgeted in a packed courtroom.
Twelve jurors and six alternates will hear the case against Tsarnaev, who faces possible execution if convicted.
Choosing a jury will not be a quick or simple process.
U.S. District Judge George O’Toole Jr. told the potential jurors not to think of the trial as “an annoying burden,” but as a needed service and an “important duty of citizenship.”
Federal prosecutors and Tsarnaev’s lawyers are trying to find jurors who can be fair and impartial. Jurors must also be willing, if Tsarnaev is convicted, to consider imposing the death penalty in a state that abolished its own death penalty three decades ago.
Defense lawyers have asked repeatedly that the trial be moved from Boston, where the bombings had a deep emotional impact. O’Toole has refused so far.
Potential jurors were asked to fill out lengthy questionnaires to help whittle down the large jury pool. Next week, Tsarnaev’s lawyers, prosecutors and the judge will begin questioning individual jurors.
The trial is perhaps the most scrutinized terror case in the U.S. since Timothy McVeigh was convicted and executed for the 1995 Oklahoma City bombing.
Heather Abbott, of Newport, Rhode Island, who lost her left leg below the knee in the Boston attack, said she plans to attend some of the proceedings. She said her biggest question may be an unanswerable one: Why?
“Why he would want to do this to people … it’s really hard to understand,” Abbott said.
Prosecutors say Dzhokhar and brother Tamerlan — ethnic Chechens who had lived in the United States for about a decade — carried out the bombings in retaliation for U.S. wars in Muslim countries. Tamerlan, 26, died in a gun battle with police days after the bombings.
The defense is expected to argue that Dzhokhar had a difficult childhood and fell under the evil influence of his older brother.
In Russia, the brothers’ father again expressed the family’s distrust of the U.S. legal system.
“All the information that can refute the allegations against my sons is on the Internet,” Anzor Tsarnaev said by telephone from Grozny, the capital of Chechnya.
Associated Press journalist Musa Sadulayev in Grozny, Russia, contributed to this story.
Copyright 2015 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.