Byline: Denise Lavoie
BOSTON -- Publicity hasn't jeopardized Boston Marathon bombing suspect Dzhokhar Tsarnaev's right to an impartial jury, a federal appeals panel says, and jury selection and opening statements can proceed this week as scheduled in the city where the deadly explosions occurred almost two years ago.
A jury of 12 jurors and six alternates is to be seated early next week followed by opening statements Wednesday. If the jury reaches a guilty verdict, the same panel will decide whether Tsarnaev lives or dies. The only possible punishments are life in prison without parole or the death penalty.
The 1st U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals panel said in a 2-1 ruling Friday that U.S. District Judge George O'Toole Jr. correctly denied Tsarnaev's requests on three occasions to move the trial and that the judge acted within his discretion, especially given the ''particularly unusual'' timing with jury selection already underway.
''The process has been thorough and appropriately calibrated to expose bias, ignorance and prevarication,'' the majority said of the judge's almost daily sessions with potential jurors that began nearly two months ago.
Chief Judge Sandra Lynch and Judge Jeffrey Howard said the ongoing jury selection process did not suggest pervasive prejudice, and it was not clear and indisputable that pretrial publicity required a change of venue. Furthermore, they said, the defense did not demonstrate irreparable harm if the trial remained in Boston.
''Any high-profile case will receive significant media attention,'' the majority opinion said. ''Knowledge, however, does not equate to disqualifying prejudice. Distinguishing between the two is at the heart of the jury selection process.''
The judges noted that other high-profile terrorism cases -- the 1993 World Trade Center bombing and the prosecution of Zacarias Moussaoui, the man who became known as the ''20th hijacker'' from the Sept. 11 attacks -- occurred in the district where the crimes occurred.
In his dissent, Judge Juan...