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Jury selection in the Boston bombings trial isn't going to be an easy task

Hundreds have been summoned for jury selection.

Dzhokhar Tsarnaev
Dzhokhar Tsarnaev
Image: AP Photo/FBI, File

THE TRIAL OF the only suspect in the Boston bombings begins today with jury selection, 20 months after the attack that turned the city’s annual marathon into a scene of carnage.

Dzhokhar Tsarnaev (21) faces the death penalty for the bombing that was the worst act of terror on US soil since the September 11 attacks in 2001.

Tsarnaev must be present in federal court in Boston for the beginning of the trial process. Two bombs placed near the end of the Boston marathon and detonated 12 seconds apart, allegedly by Tsarnaev and his brother, killed three people and wounded 264 on April 15, 2013.

The trial is expected to last at least three months and it will likely revive painful memories for the city’s residents.

Scarring experience

Some who were victims of the attack have vowed to attend every day of the trial, others are more reluctant to relive the scarring experience.

Heather Abbott, a Rhode Island woman who lost part of her left leg in the bombings, is one of several victims who plan to attend at least part of the trial. She said she hopes to gain some understanding of the motive.

“I don’t see it as something that will get me past the horror of that day,” she told Associated Press.

It’s something that I will always live with.

Tsarnaev will appear alone at trial. His older brother Tamerlan, 26, was killed in a confrontation with police days after the attacks. It may be Tamerlan who the defense tries to paint as the mastermind behind the plot.

After a manhunt that included thousands of police, Dzhokhar was arrested a few hours after the death of his brother. He was seriously injured and hiding in a boat in a Boston suburb.

The jury selection that begins today is expected to last at least two weeks and 1,200 people have been summoned for the process.

Groups of about 250 people will be brought in beginning Monday and ending Wednesday to answer questions about trial issues. Attorneys will then study these answers to begin the process of elimination that will result in a group of 12 jurors and six alternates.

It’s perhaps the most closely watched federal death penalty case since Timothy McVeigh was convicted and executed for the 1995 Oklahoma City bombing. Tasarnev’s lawyers tried in vain for months to get the trial moved, arguing the Boston jury pool was tainted because of the number of locals with connections to the race and drawing parallels to the McVeigh case, which was moved to Denver for similar reasons. But U.S. District Judge George O’Toole Jr. has been unmoved.

Jury selection alone is expected to take several weeks because of extensive media coverage and the thousands of runners, spectators and others in the area personally affected by the bombings. The process also could be slowed if potential jurors express objections to the death penalty.

Father 

In Russia, the father of the Tsarnaev brothers again expressed the family’s distrust of the US legal system. Recently, one of Dzhokhar Tsarnaev’s sisters pleaded guilty in Boston to misleading police during a counterfeiting investigation but was spared a jail sentence.

“All the information that can refute the allegations against my sons is on the Internet,” Anzor Tsarnaev said by telephone from Grozny, the capital of Chechnya.

I still have children in America and I am afraid for them. As you all know, they also caused problems for my younger daughter with fabricated allegations. Who knows what they could do with my other children?

© AFP 2015, additional reporting by The Associated Press

Read: Friend of Boston bombing suspect convicted of lying to FBI >

More: Australian newspaper apologises after photoshopping image of Boston bombing victim >

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