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Judge George O’Toole releases names of jurors in Dzhokhar Tsarnaev trial

U.S. District Court Judge George O'Toole released the names of the 18 jurors following Tsarnaev’s file for an appeal to overturn his death sentence. PHOTO BY BRIAN SONG/DAILY FREE PRESS STAFF
U.S. District Court Judge George O’Toole released the names of the 18 jurors following Tsarnaev’s file for an appeal to overturn his death sentence. PHOTO BY BRIAN SONG/DAILY FREE PRESS STAFF

U.S. District Court Judge George O’Toole released Friday the names of the 12 jurors and the six alternate jurors present for the trial of Dzhokhar Tsarnaev.

Following a two-month-long trial, Tsarnaev was convicted and sentenced to death for his part in the 2013 Boston Marathon bombings that killed three and injured more than 260, The Daily Free Press reported May 16, 2015.

In his notice released Friday, O’Toole noted his previous refusal of the requests to make the list of jurors public.

“On August 24, 2015, I denied the Motion of Boston Globe Media Partners, LLC in Support of Motion for Access to Jury List without prejudice to renewal when the then-pending post-trial matters had been concluded,” O’Toole wrote in his notice. “Those matters have now been concluded.”

Daniel Medwed, a law professor at Northeastern University, said O’Toole likely rejected the previous requests because it is customary to keep the names of jurors private.

“It’s standard practice, especially in high-profile cases like this, to preserve juror anonymity,” Medwed said. “It made sense that Judge O’Toole only released the names recently, because he was still evaluating a variety of post-trial motions, which are now resolved. So, his role will take a backseat for the moment as the case moves into the appellate and eventually into the habeas, post-conviction arena.”

Medwed added that the defense most likely wanted the names of the jurors released to help with the appeals process.

Lawyers for Tsarnaev officially appealed on Jan. 29 to the United States Court of Appeals for the First Circuit, The Daily Free Press reported on Feb. 4. One of the principle arguments behind the appeal was the argument that the jury present during the trial was biased from being around the Boston media.

“The defense wants the names presumably in order to investigate whether jurors may have been improperly influenced by publicity about the case during the trial,” Medwed said. “I imagine the defense team will seek to explore their social media accounts and those of friends and family members to see whether there was any inappropriate access to information about the case during the proceedings.”

However, in his Jan. 15, 2015 court order, O’Toole wrote that he didn’t believe the venue of Boston or the media had a strong effect on the jury.

“Even if the trial jurors saw and absorbed the extensive media coverage during the penalty phase, and I have no evidence whatsoever to believe that they did (and do have their repeated assurances to me that they did not), the coverage was not of a nature that would support a conclusion — or even a justifiable presumption — that the defendant was unfairly prejudiced by such exposure,” O’Toole wrote in the order.

Medwed said any effect that the defense can prove the media had on the jury will help with its challenge to the trial.

“If the defense were to find something, it could help in mounting a post-conviction challenge to the trial and a basis for a possible new trial,” Medwed said.

Several residents were perplexed about the benefits of releasing the names of the jurors to the public.

Megan Shand, 29, of Allston, said she was surprised at O’Toole’s decision to release the names.

“I don’t really understand the purpose,” she said. “Those jurors have a right to privacy, and it seems bizarre to release their names for such an important case.”

Will Lin, 33, of Brighton, said he thought the new information would not be beneficial.

“It’s so bizarre to me,” he said. “The trial is over, and it seems pointless to me to release those names to the public.”

However, Julia Brennan, 34, of Brighton, said she understood the reasoning behind releasing the list.

“I understand why they would want to release the list,” she said. “If that is necessary for the appeals process, then it’s not surprise that the judge would have to release them eventually.”

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