Tsarnaev lawyers: Suspend jury selection over Paris attacks

ByDENISE LAVOIE AP Legal Affairs Writer AP logo
Wednesday, January 14, 2015
Boston Marathon bombing suspect Dzhokhar Tsarnaev

BOSTON -- Lawyers for Boston Marathon bombing suspect Dzhokhar Tsarnaev asked a judge Tuesday to suspend jury selection in his trial for at least a month because the recent terrorist attacks in France have again placed the marathon bombings "at the center of a grim global drama."

The lawyers said a delay would allow some time "for the extraordinary prejudice flowing from these events - and the comparison of those events to those at issue in this case - to diminish."

They said potential jurors have been instructed to avoid media reports about Tsarnaev's case, but were exposed to reports about the French attacks.

"Almost immediately after the attacks, the press, politicians, and commentators drew parallels between the French attacks and the Boston Marathon bombing," the lawyers wrote.

In the marathon case, authorities say Tsarnaev and his older brother, Tamerlan Tsarnaev, planned and carried out the attack as retaliation for U.S. wars in Muslim countries. Three people were killed and more than 260 were wounded when twin bombs exploded at the finish line April 15, 2013.

Tamerlan was killed in a shootout with police days after the bombings. Dzhokhar, 21, could face the death penalty if convicted.

In the Paris attacks, which began Jan. 7 on the third day of jury selection in Tsarnaev's trial, two gunmen, brothers Cherif and Said Kouachi, burst into the Paris offices of the French satirical magazine Charlie Hebdo, killing 12 people. A total of 17 people were shot dead in a three-day terrorist killing spree, including four hostages. The Kouachi brothers and a third gunman were killed by police.

More than 1,350 prospective jurors were called in to federal court in Boston last week to fill out lengthy juror questionnaires. The judge will begin questioning individual jurors Thursday.

Tsarnaev's lawyers have asked repeatedly to delay the trial and to move it outside Massachusetts, where almost everyone seems to know someone connected to the marathon or personally affected by the 2013 bombings. Federal Judge George O'Toole Jr. has rejected the defense requests.