Somewhere in eastern Massachusetts are 12 people who will decide the fate of accused Boston Marathon bomber Dzhokhar Tsarnaev — and one of them could be you.
More than 2,000 people — from Haverhill to Duxbury, and from Framingham to Boston — could get the call from federal court by the end of this month, according to court papers filed yesterday. Doctors, garbagemen, lawyers, nurses and used-car salesmen may be among those who get the news they’ve been picked as potential jurors for the blockbuster terrorism trial.
Who is the perfect pick? Could you survive the scrupulous eyes of prosecutors, defense attorneys and a judge?
For Tsarnaev, a perfect juror would be a card-carrying Cambridge liberal — someone who blames George W. Bush for the war in Iraq and President Obama for NSA eavesdropping on citizens. Of course, that would-be juror would have to be willing to consider the death penalty if Tsarnaev is found guilty. Any moral qualms about lethal injections will be grounds for immediate disqualification.
Another good pick for Tsarnaev’s defense team would be a social worker or psychologist — an empathetic person who might see Dzhokhar as a lost soul, a stranger in a strange land who was under the spell of his older jihadist brother, Tamerlan. “It would be someone who is distrustful of the government’s power and maybe a little more liberal,” said David Yannetti, a criminal defense attorney not involved in the case.
Federal prosecutors will be looking for older folks who worked hard, paid their taxes and respect the government. A retired National Grid worker — who’s living on his pension and Social Security — would be the perfect candidate.
“You need a person who is law-abiding, pro-America and a little patriotic,” said Brad Bailey, a defense attorney and former prosecutor not involved in the case. “You need anyone who would have some real outrage that something like this could happen on American soil.”
Meanwhile, Tsarnaev’s attorneys will look kindly upon a humanities professor from one of Boston’s many universities — who would surely be skeptical as prosecutors paint the former UMass Dartmouth student-slacker as a cold-blooded killer.
A stockbroker or a small-business owner could make the cut for U.S. attorneys seeking a hard-line decision-maker. To put Tsarnaev to death, prosecutors want jurors who have no problem making gut-check choices without emotion. A surgeon — used to making life-or-death calls — would be able to cast a clinician’s eye on Tsarnaev and not be cowered by the prospect of sending a young man to his death.
“You need a decisive type. You need someone who is accustomed to making big decisions, quickly,” Yannetti said. “He or she can’t be afraid to make a tough call.”
Both sides can kick out 20 potential jurors for no reason at all, and that typically eliminates those with the most extreme ideologies and prejudices.
Somewhere in the middle will be 12 men and women and six alternate jurors — and yes, one of them could be you.
- Bob McGovern
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Even if we all lived in Massachusetts, I don’t think most of us would be chosen to serve on the jury, mainly because of opposition to the death penalty.
And as always with the Herald, don’t read the comments.