February 10, 2015

Tsarnaev trial: Report from jury selection (part 2)

Filed under: law & crime by Victoria Liberty @ 11:43 pm

Moakley Courthouse

It’s looking like jury selection in the Dzhokhar Tsarnaev trial might, possibly, be nearing an end. Opening arguments were tentatively expected on February 17th, but with the “Snowpocalypse” continuing to bombard Boston, the trial will likely start a bit later. I figured this would be a good time to give a recap of the goings-on so far. After over 1,300 prospective jurors filled out questionnaires in the beginning of January, those who passed the initial screening have been called back to court over the past few weeks to be questioned individually.

I’ve been able to attend bits and pieces of this individual questioning (voir dire), not in person but instead watching from an overflow courtroom via video feed. The only people permitted in the courtroom, besides the participants of course, are two pool reporters at a time. Judge George O’Toole made this decision to make it easier to keep jurors’ personal details and private discussions, well, private. As voir dire drags on, the media presence at the courthouse has dwindled, and the public overflow room has been very sparsely attended. Watching the video feed is certainly not the same as being in the courtroom, and at the beginning it had some technical glitches involving lapses in video, audio, or both, but it’s better than nothing.

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January 11, 2015

Tsarnaev trial: report from jury selection

Filed under: law & crime by Victoria Liberty @ 8:24 pm

Moakley Courthouse

Jury selection in the trial of Dzhokhar Tsarnaev began this past week. Over 1,200 potential jurors (the most for any trial in the history of Massachusetts federal court) were summoned to court over the course of Monday, Tuesday, and Wednesday. In groups of approximately 200, at 9:00 and 1:00 each day, they were called to the jury assembly room, where Judge George O’Toole gave introductory remarks and sent them off to fill out detailed questionnaires.

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January 4, 2015

Freedom Awards 2014

Filed under: Freedom Bulletin by Victoria Liberty @ 8:34 pm

father time

Better late than never, right? As I usually do at the end of each year, I’ve created a list of (in my humble opinion) the most interesting, remarkable, and influential people of 2014. Whether involved in politics, sports, business, activism, or entertainment, and whether they have been in the news locally, nationally, or internationally, these are the people who I think are the most memorable. Without further ado, here are the Freedom Awards of 2014:

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December 18, 2014

Tsarnaev in court for final pre-trial hearing

Filed under: law & crime by Victoria Liberty @ 3:56 pm

Dzhokhar Tsarnaev

Today, for the first time in nearly a year and a half, alleged Boston Marathon bomber Dzhokhar Tsarnaev appeared in court. A final pre-trial hearing before Tsarnaev’s January 5, 2015 trial took place this morning in courtroom 9 of the Moakley Federal Courthouse.

Tsarnaev arrived at the courthouse around 6:15 as part of a small motorcade of police vehicles with sirens and flashing lights. There was a heavy police presence around the building, and news trucks lined the streets. The courtroom, unsurprisingly, was packed with journalists and onlookers eager to witness Tsarnaev’s long-awaited public appearance. Journalists were allowed to enter the courtroom at 9:30 (only one from each media outlet), followed by the general public. Members of the media filled much of the left and middle sections of benches, while the right side was reserved for defense team members (the first two rows) and the general public (the third through sixth rows). At least two bombing victims – Marc Fucarile and Karen Brassard – were in attendance. So were U.S Attorney Carmen Ortiz and Watertown Police Chief Ed Deveau.

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November 26, 2014

Blocking roads does not equal free speech

Filed under: culture & social issues,law & crime by Victoria Liberty @ 11:16 pm

Ferguson, Day 4, Photo 32.png
Ferguson, Day 4, Photo 32” by LoavesofbreadOwn work. Licensed under CC BY-SA 4.0 via Wikimedia Commons.

In the midst of the protests about the Ferguson grand jury decision, Boston.com came out with an article titled, “When it Comes to #Ferguson, Lots of People Think Their Commute Trumps Free Speech.” Protesters around the country decided, among other things, to block highways. Protesters in Boston, for example, led by the organization Black Lives Matter, blocked the Mass Ave. connector, and police decided to shut down access to the Mass Pike and I-93. Understandably, many people were upset about this. Contrary to what the article and its title suggest, I think these people have a point. The question is not whether commuting trumps free speech, but whether the right of people to use a road trumps the “right” of other people to physically block the road so that no one can use it. In my opinion, it does. Yes, everyone has the right to free speech, but blocking a road goes beyond speech and interferes with the rights of others. No matter what you think about the events in Ferguson and the grand jury’s decision, it’s not okay to express your opinion in a way that harms innocent people. It is not okay to destroy cars, buildings, or property as some protesters have done, nor is it okay to violate people’s right to travel on public roads.

Another thing that’s important to remember about the Ferguson case: contrary to what so many people seem to think, we shouldn’t make it about race. Everyone should agree that it’s wrong for cops to kill innocent people, regardless of the race of the people involved. Police brutality can happen with white cops and black victims, with black cops and white victims, or any combination of races. I don’t have enough information to know for sure whether Officer Darren Wilson’s shooting of Michael Brown was self-defense, murder, or something in between. We shouldn’t jump to conclusions about what happened based on the fact that the cop is white and the young man who died was black. Instead of “Black Lives Matter,” why not “All Lives Matter”? Why not hold protests and demonstrations about police brutality and civil rights in general? Instead of limiting outrage to one race, why not fight for freedom for everyone?

November 12, 2014

Dzhokhar Tsarnaev status conference summary

Filed under: law & crime by Victoria Liberty @ 11:16 pm

Dzhokhar Tsarnaev

Today another status conference took place in the Dzhokhar Tsarnaev case. The topics of discussion included ongoing discovery disputes, leaks to the media, whether the defense team should be required to disclose their list of potential witnesses, and the timeline and logistics for the trial.

Representing the defense team were Judy Clarke, William Fick, and Timothy Watkins. As usual, Tsarnaev himself was not present in court. Representing the prosecution team were Assistant U.S. Attorneys Nadine Pellegrini, William Weinreb, Aloke Chakravarty, and the newest addition to the team, Steven Mellin.

Before the hearing began (at 10:00 sharp), there was a lot of chatting and joking around between the prosecutors and law enforcement officials in the gallery. The court clerk had to remind everyone to take their seats and quiet down.

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October 31, 2014

In honor of Domestic Violence Awareness month

Filed under: culture & social issues,law & crime by Victoria Liberty @ 6:35 pm

Purple ribbon

Today is not just Halloween, but also the last day of Domestic Violence and Sexual Assault Awareness Month. One thing that far too many people are unaware of is the fact that domestic violence and sexual assault are crimes that can happen to people of either gender, and can be perpetrated by people of either gender. Portraying these crimes only as crimes that men commit against women is anti-feminist and reinforces the stereotype of women as victims and men as aggressors. To counter this stereotype and to do my part in raising awareness, below is a list of cases that I have seen in the news over the past year that involve domestic violence or sexual assault committed by women against men. They include a wide range of crimes, involving people of all different backgrounds. All suspects are, of course, presumed innocent unless and until convicted.

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