As a judge questioned prospective jurors in the trial of Boston Marathon bombing suspect Dzhokhar Tsarnaev on Friday, one woman described her struggle to try to push aside a haunting image.
"The image of him putting the backpack behind that little boy," she said.
Photos that purport to show Tsarnaev standing near 8-year-old Martin Richard, one of three people killed when pressure cooker bombs exploded near the marathon finish line in April 2013, have been widely distributed on the Internet. Authorities have said they also have a video that shows Tsarnaev placing a backpack feet away from Martin and his family, but that has not been made public.
The woman did not say whether she saw any photos on the Internet or how she got that image in her mind.
She mentioned the image when asked if she could be fair and decide whether Tsarnaev is guilty based only on evidence she heard in court, not things reported or shown by the media.
"Actually, I think I could be fair, but I do have this image in my mind that I can't deny, to be perfectly honest," said the prospective juror, who works as an assistant to a professor emeritus at Harvard University.
The process of picking a jury for the case continued Friday even as a federal appeals court considers a push by Tsarnaev's lawyers to move the trial out of Massachusetts. The 1st U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals has not indicated when it will rule on Tsarnaev's change-of-venue request.
The defense argues that Tsarnaev cannot find jurors who can be fair and impartial in Massachusetts, citing the emotional impact the deadly bombings, which also injured more than 260 people, had on residents and the many people who have personal connections to the case. Prosecutors say Judge George O'Toole Jr.'s individual questioning of prospective jurors is successfully weeding out people who are biased against Tsarnaev.
The judge has provisionally qualified at least 61 people he believes are capable of being fair and impartial. Once he qualifies 70 people, prosecutors and Tsarnaev's lawyers will be allowed to eliminate 23 people each for strategic reasons. A panel of 12 jurors and six alternates will be chosen from those who remain to hear the case.
Tsarnaev, 21, faces the possibility of the death penalty if convicted. He has pleaded not guilty.
Here are some of the things prospective jurors had to say when questioned Friday:
- Juror 603, who works in electronic medical records: "I guess I feel like I've already seen evidence so to pretend that I've never seen that would be difficult. I think I'm a reasonable enough person so I'd be able to not judge him on that."
- Juror 605, who works as a schoolteacher and is retired from the U.S. Navy. He was questioned by Tsarnaev's lawyer about a posting on his Facebook page that said, "It's God's job to judge the terrorists. It's our job to arrange the meeting. - U.S Marines." Juror 605 replied: "I have formed the opinion that a convicted terrorist should receive the death penalty. They're the enemy of my country."