Jury selection was set to resume Wednesday in the trial of suspected Boston Marathon bomber Dzhokhar Tsarnaev after a winter storm dropped more than two feet of snow on New England, the Associated Press reported. Trial proceedings were canceled Monday and Tuesday just as they were last week -- and the week before -- because of similar weather conditions. The delays were the latest in a series of complications pushing back the opening arguments in the high-profile trial, which the judge had predicted would start Jan. 26 and last four months.
Judge George O'Toole Jr. was scheduled Wednesday to continue questioning individual jurors. Since Jan. 5, about 1,300 people have filled out jury questionnaires, and 140 have been interviewed in person, Bloomberg reported. The trial requires a jury willing to consider the death penalty if Tsarnaev is convicted.
Tsarnaev's lawyers have repeatedly argued that the pool of prospective jurors is biased and have asked the judge to move the trial out of Boston three times. "Fully 68 percent of prospective jurors already believe that Mr. Tsarnaev is guilty, before hearing a single witness or examining a shred of evidence at trial,” the Boston Globe reported his attorneys wrote in a January filing. Their most recent request, which came Friday, was denied like the others.
“It is safe to assume that almost everyone in the country has heard something about this case,” wrote U.S. Attorney Carmen Ortiz. “That doesn’t mean jurors cannot set aside their beliefs and apply the presumption of innocence.”
Tsarnaev, 21, pleaded not guilty to more than 30 federal charges, including carjacking, bombing a public place and conspiracy to use a weapon of mass destruction. Prosecutors allege he and his late brother, Tamerlan, set off pressure-cooker bombs at the finish line of the 2013 Boston Marathon. The explosion, suspected to motivated by Islamist extremism, killed three people and wounded more than 260. After allegedly killing a Massachusetts Institute of Technology police officer, the brothers engaged in a shootout with the cops, during which Tamerlan Tsarnaev died.