March 26, 2015

Tsarnaev trial: Bomb-making details and autopsy photos

Filed under: law & crime by Victoria Liberty @ 11:51 pm

Today was another day of detailed and technical testimony in the trial of alleged Boston Marathon bomber Dzhokhar Tsarnaev. Two explosives specialists from the FBI went over the materials and construction of the bombs that Tsarnaev is charged with using at the Boston Marathon finish line and during the shootout in Watertown. Additionally, at the end of the day, the court heard from the medical examiner who performed the autopsy on bombing victim Krystle Campbell.

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March 16, 2015

Tsarnaev trial: Cops tell of Watertown shootout

Filed under: law & crime by Victoria Liberty @ 11:38 pm

The Watertown shootout was the focus of today’s testimony in the Dzhokhar Tsarnaev trial. Today the court heard from three police officers who engaged in a gun battle with the Tsarnaev brothers, as well as two eyewitnesses and an emergency room doctor.

The proceedings got off to a late start. As reporters and members of the public gathered in the hallway outside Courtroom 9, there were numerous whispers that the jury was viewing the infamous bullet-riddled boat where Tsarnaev hid from police. The lawyers on the case gradually filed back to the courthouse, along with two reporters and three sketch artists who had been invited to the boat viewing. The sketch artists sat on benches outside the courtroom, finishing up sketches of the boat, and after the two pool reporters briefed the rest of the media about the morning’s events, court was finally able to begin.

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March 10, 2015

Tsarnaev trial: FBI agents take the stand

Filed under: law & crime by Victoria Liberty @ 9:07 pm

Dzhokhar Tsarnaev

Last week in the trial of Dzhokhar Tsarnaev was filled with emotional and gruesome testimony from survivors and eyewitnesses of the Boston Marathon bombing. Today was more dry and technical, as several FBI agents testified about the defendant’s online activity, his writings in the boat where he hid while on the run, and the process of collecting evidence from the massive crime scene on Boylston Street.

The scene at the courthouse was surprisingly low-key, with less of a media presence than previous days and even some empty benches in the gallery. This meant that as a member of the general public, I got to sit in the second row, right behind the bench reserved for defense team members.

Court got off to a late start, with some of the lawyers going to speak with the judge in chambers. Finally, at 9:30, Tsarnaev was led into the courtroom, wearing a black suit and light blue shirt. Hands clasped in front of him, he appeared to have a slight smile on his face, although he avoided making eye contact with anyone. He sat at the defense table between his lawyers, Judy Clarke and David Bruck, and chatted with them while waiting for proceedings to start, at one point smiling and looking quite animated. I could hear Miriam Conrad, another of his lawyers, ask him, “Hi, how are you?” In response, he nodded and gave a little wave. As the jurors entered the courtroom, he alternated between looking at them and looking down.

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March 5, 2015

Tsarnaev trial: Opening statements and emotional testimony

Filed under: law & crime by Victoria Liberty @ 1:54 pm

After a lengthy and sometimes tedious jury selection process, the trial of Dzhokhar Tsarnaev is officially underway. It was an eventful and emotional day in court yesterday, with opening statements in the morning, followed by testimony from six witnesses.

There was a heavy security presence at the Moakley Federal Courthouse, with police cars lining the street and agents sweeping the grounds with bomb-sniffing dogs. Not knowing how many people would show up to watch the trial, I arrived at 5:00 a.m. and was the first one there, managing to easily snag one of the 15 seats for the general public in the main courtroom. As I waited outside the courthouse, camera crews gradually assembled behind a metal barricade. The street across from the courthouse was lined with satellite vans from local and national news networks.

Inside the courtroom, the center set of benches was filled with members of the media, with two sketch artists in the front row. Victims sat on the left-hand side. Some that I recognized included bombing survivors Marc Fucarile, Heather Abbott, and Jeff Bauman, Carlos Arredondo, the man who helped to save Bauman’s life at the finish line, Officer Dic Donohue, who was injured in the Watertown shootout, and Liz Norden, whose two sons lost their legs in the bombing. The right-hand section of benches was reserved for defense team members and behind them the general public.

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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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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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