Boston (AFP) – The trial of the only suspect in the Boston bombings begins Monday with jury selection, 20 months after the attack that turned the city’s annual marathon into a scene of carnage.
Dzhokhar Tsarnaev, 21, a young Muslim of Chechen origin, faces the death penalty for the bombing that was the worst act of terror on U.S. 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.
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.
Some people have even refused to even look at Tsarnaev, who arrived to the Boston area with his family eight years ago and was naturalized a U.S. citizen in 2012.
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 Monday 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.
The prosecution will be one of the most important for the government since the Timothy McVeigh bombing trial in 1997 that ended in a death sentence.
Tsarnaev will be defended by a team of five lawyers, including Judy Clarke, an expert in death penalty cases who has helped spare her clients from capital punishment numerous times.
Tsarnaev has been held in near-solitary confinement in federal prison outside of Boston. He has made two appearances since his arrest.
Tsarnaev appeared in a courtroom in 2013 to plead not guilty to the 30 charges against him, including using a weapon of mass destruction. He also appeared last month for a pre-trial hearing.
According to the indictment, the government believes the Tsarnaev brothers acted alone. The government portrays them as radicalized lone wolves, who learned how to make bombs from an Al-Qaeda publication online.
A message inside the boat where Tsarnaev was found after the manhunt offers a glimpse into the possible motive behind the crime:
“The U.S. government is killing our innocent civilians… We Muslims are one body… Stop killing our innocent people and we will stop,” it read.
AFP Photo/Don Emmert