6 Things to Know as Tsarnaev’s Trial Begins
First up: jury selection in case of Boston Marathon bombings
By Kate Seamons,  Newser Staff
Posted Jan 5, 2015 6:46 AM CST
Updated Jan 5, 2015 7:43 AM CST
In this courtroom sketch, Boston Marathon bombing suspect Dzhokhar Tsarnaev is depicted sitting in federal court in Boston, Dec. 18, 2014.   (AP Photo/Jane Flavell Collins)

(Newser) – The first phase in the trial of accused Boston Marathon bomber Dzhokhar Tsarnaev begins today, and it's expected to be a lengthy one. Six things to know:

  1. The first step is the selection of a jury of 12 (plus six alternates), in a process that will begin with a list of more than 1,200 names and could take as long as a month. The Boston Globe explains that would-be jurors will today begin filling out a survey designed to weed out those who should be excluded without any further questioning; the survey will also reveal their fitness to serve on a death panel jury—that's the sentence Tsarnaev faces.
  2. Massachusetts struck down the death penalty roughly three decades ago and hasn't executed anyone since 1947. But the death penalty is at play in this case because Tsarnaev is being tried in the federal court system (a federal jury in the state has only considered the death penalty twice and handed it out once). Of the 30 charges he faces, 17 are punishable by death.

  1. If he's found guilty (the Globe suspects a verdict won't come until late spring or early summer), the second phase will be the sentencing one, in which a second full trial will occur. Jurors would need to be unanimous in handing down capital punishment. If they aren't, the judge would intervene and sentence Tsarnaev to life in prison.
  2. CNN reports that federal prosecutors and defense attorneys have failed to reach an agreement on a possible plea deal that could have seen Tsarnaev receive life in exchange for pleading guilty; the roadblock was reportedly the DOJ's refusal to take the death penalty off the table.
  3. Defense attorney Judy Clarke, who hasn't commented, has in the past managed to secure plea deals for high-profile criminals, including "Unabomber" Ted Kaczynski and Gabrielle Giffords' shooter Jared Loughner. CNN describes her as an "ardent opponent of the death penalty."
  4. In terms of the prosecution, US Attorney Carmen Ortiz has tackled some high-profile cases, too, including that of mob boss James "Whitey" Bulger.