The First Circuit Court of Appeals will hear arguments on a motion by Dzhokhar Tsarnaev to move his trial in the Boston Marathon bombings out of Boston to Washington, D.C. The complaint by Tsarnaev’s lawyers is that an impartial jury can’t be found in Boston. New England trial lawyer Norm Pattis discusses the situation in this report.
Pattis points out that Tsarnaev is entitled to a fair trial by “a group of jurors who can approach his case dispassionately” and make a judgment solely on the evidence presented in court. This is obviously a case that has roused strong emotions in Boston. Many people knew people who were touched by the bombings, and probably most people in Boston are angry that an event like this happened in their city.
As to issues like federal law versus Massachusetts law and whether or not the bombers were terrorists or instead psychopaths, Pattis says a big issue in the background is that Massachusetts does not have a death penalty. The federal prosecutors want to proceed under federal law because a death penalty is one of the available punishments. As to the terrorist issue, Pattis opines that “one man’s terrorist is another man’s psychopath.” But the current federal law would make the acts in this case a federal crime, and the prosecution will proceed accordingly.
The death penalty issue could be risky for the prosecutors (although probably not in this case, says Pattis) in a state like Massachusetts because jurors might be resentful that a federal prosecutor is seeking the death penalty in a state that has abolished that penalty. Public sentiment is so strong about the bombings that there will likely be no problem in this case.
The process of selecting a jury in the Tsarnaev trial will probably be a very long one no matter where the trial is held. Pattis explains that the jury selection will be time-consuming because of the extensive questioning that will be necessary as to each potential juror. Defense counsel will ask everyone what they have heard, whether they know anyone who was touched by the bombings, and whether they could render a fair and impartial verdict in the trial. “I don’t hear many people who don’t have strong views about the case,” Pattis says. Almost no one has been standing up for Tsarnaev in the press. Pattis points out that an impartial jury will be required both for the trial proper and for the sentencing phase, if the death penalty is sought. Such a jury could be hard to find in Boston.
Pattis believes that Tsarnaev’s Muslim beliefs will work against him in this trial. “I think it’s very difficult for a Muslim American to get a fair trial.” The continuing violence and acts of terrorism by ISIS just complicates and already difficult task for the lawyers representing Tsarnaev.
Norman Pattis is a leading New England based trial lawyer. He represents people who face powerful foes. His relentless voice levels the playing field for individuals against prosecutors in serious criminal cases, for people or families who experience catastrophic injuries against uncaring insurance giants, for victims of corporate malfeasance, and other people who face the loss of liberty or property. He is a veteran of more than 100 jury trials, many resulting in acquittals for people charged with serious crimes, multi-million dollar civil rights and discrimination verdicts, and scores of cases favorably settled. Attorneys from California to New York refer their clients to the Pattis Law Firm, and they seek out Norm as co-counsel in challenging high stakes cases across the U.S.