The judge in the trial of Boston Marathon bombing suspect Dzhokhar Tsarnaev is set to begin questioning prospective jurors as the second phrase of jury selection begins.
Beginning Thursday, Judge George O’Toole Jr. plans to individually question about 40 prospective jurors each day until enough people have been qualified to move to the final phase of jury selection.
Last week, more than 1,350 people filled out lengthy juror questionnaires. Many were expected to be excused based on their responses, but the court has not yet released that number.
The judge will do most of the questioning, with some follow-up allowed by Tsarnaev’s lawyers and prosecutors.
Authorities say Tsarnaev and his older brother, Tamerlan, planned and carried out the 2013 attack. Three people were killed and more than 260 were wounded when twin bombs exploded at the marathon finish line.
Tamerlan was killed in a shootout with police days after the bombings. Dzhokhar, 21, also is accused of killing an MIT police officer. He could face the death penalty if convicted.
O’Toole rejected a bid by Tsarnaev’s lawyers Wednesday to suspend jury selection because of the potential impact of last week’s terror attacks in Paris.
In a brief written ruling, O’Toole said his review of jury questionnaires “has so far confirmed, rather than undermined, my judgment that a fair and impartial jury can and will be chosen to determine the issues in this case.”
Legal analysts said prosecutors and Tsarnaev’s lawyers will be looking to get a snapshot of the life experiences and attitudes of prospective jurors when they are questioned individually.
Frank Libby, a former federal prosecutor who is now a Boston defense attorney, said individual questioning helps lawyers on both sides explore the backgrounds of prospective jurors and the decisions they’ve made in their lives.
“As a prosecutor, you want to have somebody who is adult, grown-up, had some experience in life, perhaps has some ups and downs, someone who understands that actions have consequences, and they’ve had exposure to making tough decisions,” Libby said.
“From the defense side, you certainly want to find the maverick, the mustang, somebody who’s not averse to going his or her own way and standing their ground,” he said.
A panel of 12 jurors and six alternates will be chosen. The judge has said he expects testimony in the trial to begin Jan. 26.