Boston bombings trial to begin, two years on
BOSTON - Agence France-PresseBoston will revisit the horror of the 2013 Marathon bombings on March 4 when the 21-year-old accused of carrying out the worst attack on US soil since the September 11 strikes goes on trial.
Kyrgyzstan-born US Muslim Dzhokhar Tsarnaev faces the death penalty if convicted of using a weapon of mass destruction to bomb Boston's signature race, killing three people and wounding 264, on April 15, 2013.
He pleads not guilty to 30 federal charges in connection with the attacks and the killing of a police officer while he and his 26-year-old brother Tamerlan were on the run from the FBI.
Tamerlan was killed in a shootout with police, leaving the younger Tsarnaev to face charges for attacks that devastated the northeastern US city of 645,000 and revived American memories of 9/11.
It will be one of the most watched American trials since Timothy McVeigh was convicted and later executed for the Oklahoma City bombing that killed 168 people in 1995.
Prosecutors say the brothers, both of part Chechen descent, built their bombs based on instructions in Al-Qaeda's English-language magazine Inspire but that they appear otherwise to have acted alone.
An all white jury of eight men and 10 women was sworn in Tuesday, capping a fraught two-month selection process delayed by historic snowfall and repeated attempts to move the trial elsewhere.
The jury who were whittled down from more than 1,300 candidates to decide Tsarnaev's fate, includes a student, a house painter, an air traffic controller and an unemployed auditor.
The defense filed another demand for a change of venue Monday, claiming that 48 of the 75 provisionally qualified jurors either believe Tsarnaev is guilty, or have a connection to the attacks or both.
District Judge George O'Toole has rejected all attempts to move the case, as has the Court of Appeals for the First Circuit, paving the way for opening statements to begin in the trial at 9:00 am (1400 GMT).
Government prosecutors are expected to revisit the horror of the attacks, when nails and ball bearings crammed into two pressure cookers detonated 12 seconds apart at a race attended by thousands.
More than a dozen of the wounded lost limbs, and an eight-year-old child was among those killed. Some victims and relatives have voiced determination to attend the three to four-month trial.
Tsarnaev supporters are also expected to gather outside, after O'Toole refused to ban them, following the defense's claims that wild conspiracy theories many of them espouse could taint their client.
The defendant, who was badly injured while on the run, has sat in court attentively, yet appearing tense, during the long-drawn out jury selection.
He is being held in near-solitary confinement in federal prison outside Boston, where his visitors and contact with the outside world are strictly limited to immediate family and his legal team.
Seventeen of the 30 charges against him carry the possibility of a death penalty under federal law.
Massachusetts abolished the death penalty in 1984, and no one has been executed in the state since 1947.
Tsarnaev was arrested, seriously injured and hiding in a boat in Boston suburb on April 19, several hours after his brother died.
While Tamerlan was known to associates as a radicalized Muslim, media reports suggested that his younger brother had lived outwardly as a seemingly well-adjusted American.
He moved to the United States aged eight, lived in Boston's twin town of Cambridge, finished school and enrolled at the University of Massachusetts Dartmouth.
He became a naturalized American citizen in 2012.
The only hint to his alleged motives appears in a rambling explanation purportedly scrawled on the inside of the boat, where he was arrested, criticizing the US government over the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan.
"Now, I don't like killing innocent people, it is forbidden in Islam, but ... stop killing our innocent people, and we will stop," the message read.
His legal team includes defense attorney Judy Clarke, who has saved some of America's most notorious convicts from death row.
Among them are Zacarias Moussaoui, the so-called 20th hijacker in the 9/11 attacks; and Jared Loughner, who shot dead six people and seriously wounded Representative Gabrielle Giffords in Arizona in 2011.
Tsarnaev's parents, who live in Russia, have not visited their son and his mother Zubeidat Tsarnaeva accused the US security services of needlessly killing Tamerlan while trying to capture him.