Archives for posts with tag: Trials

There is white smoke coming from Cobb County.

No, they haven’t named another pope.

After weeks of jury selection in the Ross Harris “hot car death trial,” which got a lot more attention than some would have liked, causing the defense to ask for a change of venue, which they got.

Pack your bags. The Ross Harris circus is moving south to Glynn County (Brunswick). A trial that is already filled with more intrigue than a J.B. Fletcher mystery is moving 327 miles away from where the alledged crime took place.

During jury selection (voir dire), some jurors that were asked to fill out questionares to assist both the state and defense. Some of the commnents that were penned were less than favorable toward the defendant. Included were comments such as “I hate to use vulgarity but one juror used the words ‘rot in hell.’ Another used the word ‘pervert.’” So much for a fair trial in Marietta. With that, the process was started by Cobb County court officials to move the high-profile trial to another location. Judge Mary Staley granted a change-of-venue motion because so many potential jurors had already formed an opinion on whether Ross Harris had murdered his son, Cooper.

Harris is accused of intentionally leaving his 2-year-old son in a hot car to die for more than seven hours in June 2014 while he was at work for Home Depot. Harris’ legal team asked for the change of venue after lawyers had grilled some 90 jurors. Around half had opinions so strong about Harris’ guilt they were not suitable for the jury and the intensity of those opinions seemed to surprise even the judge.

Cobb County Court Adminstrator Tom Charron told WSB-TV and the Atlanta Journal-Constitution, “I know the judge wants this case to be scheduled and tried before the end of the year.”

“Experience has shown us when you have a remote location that jurors interest in the case is not that compelling as it is when it is in their own backyard,” defense attorney Esther Panitch said.

Jury selection may only take a few weeks in Brunswick because the residents in Glynn County, south of Savannah, aren’t as vested in the case as those in Cobb County. “You have jurors who are a lot more aware than you do when it comes from somewhere else and experience has shown us that when you have a remote location that jurors interest in the case is not that compelling as it is when it is in their own backyard,” Charron said.

In case you’re wondering, the Harris case is not the first in recent history to be moved from Cobb County.

Stacey Humphreys, now on death row for killing two real estate agents, was tried in Brunswick. Lynn Turner, who poisoned her police officer husband, was found guilty in Perry, Georgia. Turner later committed suicide in her prison cell taking pills that she had stashed away.

While moving a trial of this nature from where the crime took place to another jurisdiction is not easy and can be somewhat miserable, former Cobb County District Attorney Pat Head says that the state has an advantage.

Head told WSB, “In those cases where we went to Brunswick, the DA there provided us with some space. We had copy machines available to us if we needed something like an investigator to look at something he’d provide us with that.”

The tentative date for jury selection would be around September 12th and the trial could take place soon after that. Harris is looking at life in prison for the death of his 2-year old son. He faces one charge of malice murder, two counts of felony murder, first-degree cruelty to children, second-degree cruelty to children, criminla attempt to commit a Felony (sexual explotation) and two counts of dissemination of harmful material to minors (he alledgedly posted pornographic photos of himself to a minor).

So the Ross Harris trial (or circus) moves to south Georgia and will take place about a week after Labor Day and the start of the high school football season. Let’s hope that this jury plays a little nicer.

He sat there in his chair, next to his attorneys and listened. One by one, the victims and the family members of those that lost their lives in Boston spoke.

In the end, Dzhokar Tsarnev found out what his fate would be and to no one’s suprise it was death.

Before his sentence, Tsarnaev spoke to the jury. He did not look at them, instead looking at US District Judge George A. O’Toole Jr. that pronounced the death sentence, admitting his wrongdoing. On Wednesday, in the US District Court on Boston, he ended his long silence, asking Allah to help his victims and their families and apologizing for the pain and suffering he caused two years ago.

“If there is any lingering doubt … I did it along with my brother,” he said, referring to the bombings carried out by him and his older brother, Tamerlan. “I ask Allah to have mercy on me, my brother and my family.”

Standing at the defense table and speaking in a low voice, he said he was sorry but he never turned to face his victims — whose names, faces and ages, he said, he has come to know.

“I am sorry for the lives that I’ve taken, for the suffering that I’ve caused you, for the damage that I’ve done. Irreparable damage,” he said.

He added, “I prayed for Allah to bestow his mercy upon the deceased, those affected in the bombing and their families. Allah says in the Quran that with every hardship there is relief. I pray for your relief, for your healing, for your well-being, for your strength.”

Not all were impressed with his words and some of the comments made in a news conference after the sentencing let their feeling be known.

“The last thing we wanted to hear about is Allah,” Lynn Julian, one of the survivors spoke afterward. “He threw in an apology that seemed insenserce.” Julian, who lives about a block away from the finish line, suffered a back injury and permanent loss of hearing from the bombing in 2013. Scott Weisberg became an advocate for those that suffer tramatic injures after he was hurt in the bombing. Weisberg, a doctor from Birmingham, Alabama, who suffers from PTSD and a hearing loss, said “He said that he was remorseful, which I find hard to believe,” Weisberg said. “I think he spoke because people were expecting him to.

This was his one last moment. I don’t think it was genuine with his apology. We are still alive, even though there are four people that are not.”

Dzhokar Tsarnev will be shackled and taken on his way to Terre Haute, Indiana. The trial part of his life is over and a jury of his peers found him guilty for four counts of murder in the bombing. His life now in the figurative sense of the word hangs in the balance. Tsarnaev is the first person to be handed a death sentence in a federal terrorism case since the September 11, 2001, attacks. He and older brother Tamerlan, who died while fleeing police, set off two bombs at the finish line of the Boston Marathon on April 15, 2013.

Dzhokhar Tsarnaev thought he was fighting a holy war and wanted to bring jihad to America. In the end, the jury spoke and spoke loudly, not just for those that were injured and lost limbs and livelihood but those that died, sending him the message that if you kill Americans, we will kill you, no matter how long it takes or who the executioner is. The average time from the time a person is sentenced to death to the time that sentence is carried out is about 12 years. Dzhokhar Tsarnaev is 26 now, which means that if all the appeals are exhausted and the ducks are in a row from bill to tail, he will be 38 years old when he is given his last meal and then led to the death chamber. He will then be given a chance to make a final statement with witnesses present from the government and the defense, as well as his family and then be put to death.

The American public spoke loudly that Friday afternoon in the federal courthouse in Boston and Judge O’Toole confirmed their message. Bostonians know now that they can breathe easy knowing that a man that caused them grief and misery on a day that was supposed to be joyful will never do it again to anyone else and will pay for his action with his life.

When Judge O’Toole formally imposed the death sentence on Tsarnaev — a decision already made by a federal jury, he was not only speaking for those that lost their lives, he spoke for those that lost limbs, relationships and jobs after the bombing and he did not mince any words.

“Whenever your name is mentioned, what will be remembered is the evil you did,” the judge told him. “What will be remembered is that you murdered and maimed innocent people and that you did it willfully and intentionally. You did it on purpose.”

O’Toole recalled the evil Iago in Verdi’s opera Otello, who tries to justify his malice by saying he believes in “a cruel God.”

“Surely someone who believes that God smiles on and rewards the deliberate killing and maiming of innocents believes in a cruel God. That is not, it cannot be, the God of Islam. Anyone who has been led to believe otherwise has been maliciously and willfully deceived.”

In the grand scheme of things, Dzhokar Tsarnev will never draw breath as a free man and will eventually die behind bars. The only question is that will Nature take its course and kill him or will he die by lethal injection in Terre Haute, Indiana.

The victims that spoke yesterday talked about their hopes and dreams of a better future. Dzhokhar Tsarnaev took those hopes and dreams away from them. Those that lost limbs will never get them back but in the bigger picture, they will be admitted into heaven (better to enter Heaven maimed than to go to Hell whole, Jesus told his disciples). They are the lucky ones. Some relationships have been damaged forever by the bombing, some have lost jobs and friends because of this and some have even gone bankrupt financially.

They spoke, he listened silently. Then it was his turn and to some that were there, his words sounded hollow, rehearsed as if he was in a movie, some even going so far as to say they were not sincere. His actions did him in. It will be some time before he is executed because of the appeals process, which could take at the very least a decade if not more.

Credo in un Dio crudel,” Iago sings in the Verdi opera based on the Shakespeare play. “I believe in a cruel god.” Judge O’Toole did was not in the mood to pull any punches and did not.

Dzhokar Tsarnaev will sit in a prison cell in Terre Haute, Indiana counting the number of days when he die. He will be allowed to feel sunlight on his face but it will not be as a free man. His punishment awaits him and it will be slow and painful. In the end, Dzhokar Tsarnaev will never leave on his own two feet. When the appeals are exhausted, he will know that the end is near. Dzhokar Tsarnaev was a national nightmare. Now he must pay the penalty and that bill will come due in time.

When he is officially sentenced on June 24th, he will face 20 of his victims. Although he did not speak at his trial, Dzhokhar Tsarnaev will be given the chance to speak and perhaps ask the court to spare him his life. Found guilty of three counts of murder and injuring 264 people with a bomb he made from a pair of homemade pressure-cooker bombs at the 2013 Boston Marathon, he was sentenced to death by lethal injection by the same jury last Friday.

Those 20 people will be able to speak and give statements before sentencing becomes official and they have indicated that they want to do so. The hearing is expected to last one day just that day. “We could proceed rather expeditiously,” in making the jury’s sentence formal, U.S. District Judge George O’Toole told prosecutors and defense attorneys in the same courtroom where Tsarnaev was tried.

Tsarnaev did not appear at the hearing but he would also have the right to speak at the sentencing hearing but would not be obligated to say anything. Just three of the 74 people that have been sentenced to death have been executed since 1988 and his attorneys are most likely going to appeal the death sentence that was handed out. Those appeals are expected to run their course of years if not decades. The defense also argues that Tsarnaev’s older brother Tamerlan was the driving force behind the bombing. That arguement was rejected and taken into account into the jury giving him death instead of life in prison without parole.

When June 24th comes, there will be people speaking of their experiences before the bombing and after. While there will be 20 speaking, the three people that lost their lives in the bombing, 8-year-old Martin Richard, 23- year old Chinese exchange student Lingzi Lu, and 29-year old restaurant manager Krystle Campbell will have their families speak for them. There is no telling what the mood will be and there is a chance that Tsarnaev’s family could be there. Things at best could be testy, which could mean that the familes of Tsarnaev’s victims and Tsarnaev’s family will have to be kept away from each other for their safety and the safety of others.

What, if anything, will Dzhokhar Tsarnaev say when that time comes? Will he be honest? Will he be forthcoming? More importantly, will he ask forgiveness from his victims and will they do the same or will there be such a chill in the courtroom that even Satan will need long johns? This is real life. There’s no one writting a script, no director yelling “cut” at the end of the day and no credits rolling. Things could either be civil or they could get hostile. In the end, Tsarnaev will spend his final days in a prison cell either in Colorado or Terre Haute, Indiana, waiting to hear if his appeal will be upheld or if the sentence of death will be carried out.

20 people will face the man that harmed them on June 24th, which is on a Wednesday. They will have their say. They, along with the family members of the three that were killed, will be given the chance to give victim impact statements. Then if Tsarnaev has anything to say, he will. Once the talking is over, a judge will speak and sentence him and unlike the court system in Britain, there will be no black wig, which indicates that a person has been sentenced to death. At 21, he will be the youngest person to be given the death sentence. When the talking stops, he will sit in a prison cell, waiting to die (most likely in Terre Haute) as the appeals process plays out and the race to see who gets to kill Tsarnaev is on.

Dzhokhar Tsarnaev may well be the most hated man in Boston since Bucky Dent. A jury of his peers found him guilty and sentenced him to die, telling him that “your idea of an American Jihad is not accepted here.” He will probably spend his days reading, working on his appeals and praying. His life will be placed in the hands of U.S. District Judge George O’Toole, the same judge that presided over his trial and sentencing. In any case, Dzhokhar Tsarnaev will draw his last breath behind bars.

The bigger question?

Will Nature kill him or Uncle Sam?

It took them 14 1/2 hours over three days and in the end, they were all in agreement. They convicted him last month for the bombing during the Boston Marathon in 2013 that shut down a city for days and now their decision about his fate was rendered.

Wearing a blazer and collared shirt and having a blank expression on his face as he has had throughout most of the trial that almost never changed, Dzhokhar Tsarnaev heard what would be his fate.

Death by lethal injection.

The sentence was handed down Friday in the United States Federal Court in Boston and came at the end of a long and somewhat lengthy and high-profile trial. Handed down by a seven-woman, five-man jury, Tsarnaev was called by federal prosecutors as
remorseless and a self-radicalized terrorist who had participated in the bombing to make a political statement, while his defense team portrayed him as the puppy dog-like follower of his troubled, violence-prone older brother, Tamerlan, who became obsessed with waging jihad and died in a firefight with police.

Three died at his hands, while 260 suffered injures that were sever enough for some to lose limbs. Tsarnaev took a turn from a hopeful college student that wanted to change the world to a radical jihadist, was also convicted in the murder of a police officer. The April 15, 2013, bombing was one of the worst terror attacks in the United States since September 11, 2001.

US District Judge George A. O’Toole Jr. will impose the sentence at a later hearing, where Tsarnaev’s victims will be able to confront him and he also will have the option of addressing the court.

After the verdict was announced, O’Toole told jurors, at least three of whom wiped away tears, “You should be justly proud of your service in this case.”

Some of his victims that didn not want Tsarnev to be put to death, were in attendance.

The jurors decided Tsarnaev should be sentenced to death for the people he was found directly responsible for killing when he placed one of the two homemade pressure cooker bombs detonated in the attack. The two people killed by that bomb were Martin Richard and 23-year-old Boston University graduate student Lingzi Lu.

The panel also had the right to sentence Tsarnaev to death for the second bomb placed by Tamerlan Tsarnaev, which killed Krystle Campbell, 29, of Arlington. But the jury chose not to. The jurors also decided against imposing the death penalty for the subsequent murder of MIT Police Officer Sean A. Collier, 27, whom the defense argued was shot to death by Tamerlan, not Dzhokhar.

US Attorney Carmen M. Ortiz told the Boston Globe, the Boston Herald, the Associated Press and USA Today that the sentence
rendered was fair and just and also showed that Americans are “not intimidated by acts of terror or radical ideas.”

She said the trial “showcased an important American ideal — that even the worst of the worst deserves a fair trial and due process of law.’’

“This was not a religious crime,’’ Ortiz said. “It was a political crime designed to intimidate and coerce the United States.. … Dzhokhar Tsarnaev will pay with his life for this crime. Our thoughts should turn away from the Tsarnaev brothers for good,’’ she said.

Sydney Corcoran was seriously injured along with her mother, Celeste, who lost both legs in the blast. “My mother and I think that NOW he will go away and we will be able to move on. Justice,’’ Sydney Corcoran wrote on her Twitter account. “In his own words, ‘an eye for an eye.’ “

Boston Mayor Martin J. Walsh said in a statement that the “verdict provides a small amount of closure to the survivors, families, and all impacted by the violent and tragic events surrounding the 2013 Boston Marathon.’’

The defense never contested his guilt, focusing instead on the second phase of the trial, in which the jury was asked to determine whether Tsarnaev should get life in prison without parole or a death sentence. Over 11 days of testimony jurors heard from more than 60 witnesses, most of them called by the defense in an effort to humanize Tsarnaev. He also did not testify during either phase, showing little emotion as he sat in the courtroom, which left him as a riddle to the jury that would eventually decide his fate.

But in a statement he wrote when he was hiding from police several days after the bombing, he said he had acted because the US government was “killing our innocent civilians. … We Muslims are one body, you hurt one you hurt us all.”

Defense attorney Judy Clarke suggested that Tsarnaev’s parents were emotionally and later physically, absent from his life and that Tamerlan had filled the void.

A massive manhunt followed that ended several days later in a violent, chaotic showdown. After authorities released their pictures, Tsarnaev, who was 19 at the time, and his 26-year-old brother murdered Collier while he sat in his cruiser on the night of April 18, 2013, in an unsuccessful attempt to get a second gun.

When police caught up with the brothers in Watertown, just outside the city, in the early hours of April 19, the brothers hurled more deadly bombs and fired dozens of shots at police. Tamerlan Tsarnaev died after being shot by police and run over by his own brother as he made his escape.

He slipped away from the legions of police who swarmed to the Boston area as the governor, in an unprecedented step, urged residents of Boston, Watertown and other nearby areas to stay indoors and “shelter in place.” But Tsarnaev was ultimately captured later in the day, hiding in a boat stored in a Watertown back yard, where he had written the note explaining his actions. A stunned region breathed a sigh of relief.

People in Boston and beyond rallied together after the attacks, expressing sympathy and offering support to the bombing victims. At the same time, questions were raised and investigations launched into why the attacks weren’t prevented.

He came to America at the age of 9 and the jury heard from his teachers in Cambridge. They spoke of him as being an A student, smart, kind, popular. Tsarnaev arrived in America with his family when he was 9 years old. He would later go on to be captain of the Cambridge Rindge and Latin school wrestling team before attending the University of Massachusetts-Darmouth. Witnesses described him as laid-back and fun loving while in college.

The jury that would eventually convict and sentence him also heard about Tsarnaev’s upbringing in a dysfunctional immigrant Chechen family that held to old cultural traditions that gave outsized rank to the oldest brother. And an expert on Chechnya
described how that country’s struggles for independence became intertwined over the last two decades with the global jihad movement by Islamic militants. When his parents returned to Russia in 2012, the jihad-obsessed Tamerlan was the only adult figure in his life, the defense said. Prosecutors rejected the idea that his older brother Tamerlan had influenced him, arguing that he acted on his own and was his own man.

“These weren’t youthful crimes,” prosecutor William Weinreb said during closings. “There was nothing immature or impulsive about them. These were political crimes, designed to punish the United States . . . by killing and mutilating innocent civilians on US soil.”

So now a jury of his peers has heard arguments from both sides. They listened to testimony and have decided his guilt first and fate second. But even before he is put to death and will be probably sent to the federal government’s version of Death Row in Terre Haute, Indiana, there are still appeals that will have to be dealt with. Even though Tsarnev may be one of the most-hated men in America since Timothy McVeigh, he is still entitled to due process. At the same time, understand that in the federal prison system there is NO parole. That means if you are sentenced to a life term, you do a life term, which means natural life. That means that one way or another, Tsarnev will draw his last breath on Earth behind bars.

The race is on. Even though he’s been sentenced to death, Dzhokhar Tsarnaev will die in prison. The only real question in when. The wheels of justice grind slow but they do move. Dzhokhar Tsarnaev is a marked man and some would like nothing more than perhaps to have him locked in a room with Boston Red Sox slugger David Ortiz holding a baseball bat.

Dzhokhar Tsarnaev will die in prison. Dzhokhar Tsarnaev thought he was fighting a holy war and wanted to bring jihad to America. In the end, the jury spoke and spoke loudly, not just for those that were injured and lost limbs and livelihood but those that died, sending him the message that if you kill Americans, we will kill you, no matter how long it takes or who the executioner is. The average time from the time a person is sentenced to death to the time that sentence is carried out is about 12 years. Dzhokhar Tsarnaev is 26 now, which means that if all the appeals are exhausted and the ducks are in a row from bill to tail, he will be 38 years old when he is given his last meal and then led to the death chamber. He will then be given a chance to make a final statement with witnesses present from the government and the defense, as well as his family and then be put to death.

The American public spoke loudly Friday afternoon in the federal courthouse in Boston. Bostonians know now that they can breathe easy knowing that a man that caused them grief and misery on a day that was supposed to be joyful will never do it again to anyone else and will pay for his action with his life. They’re also patient souls, knowing that he will die. The clock for Dzhokhar Tsarnaev is ticking. Will he die at the hands of the government or at the hands of God?

Uncle Sam doesn’t know the answer to that question.

God knows the answer.

But he’s not saying.

It’s the strangest twist of fate in the history of twists of fate. Two murder trials 123 years apart in the same town and the same courthouse.

The Aaron Hernandez murder trial got underway today with opening arguments just three days before Super Bowl 49, where Hernandez’ former team is in Glendale, Arizona taking on the defending Super Bowl champion Seattle Seahawks.

Fall River, Massachusetts is about 36 miles away from Foxboro, where Hernandez and Tom Brady connected on passes. It’s also the home of another famous murder suspect that was the Casey Anthony of her day.

Lizzie Borden.


THAT Lizzie Borden.

The same Lizzie Borden that alledgedly killed her father and step-mother with an axe in that now-famous (or infamous) poem. According to ledgend, Borden hacked her step-mother (who she didn’t get along with) 40 times. Later, when her father came home, she whacked him 41 times.

Because of that crime that took place in 1892, the trial was moved to nearby New Bedford and attracted global media attention, which helped turn it into one of the most well known who-done-its in history.

The house where the deed was done is said to have been haunted and has been turned into a bed and breakfast that welcomes guests and gives tours.

The Bristol County Superior Court, where the Hernandez trial is taking place, sits across the street from Lizzie Borden’s house. Hernandez has been charged with the murder of former semi-professional player Odin Lloyd as well as weapons possession.

Like Anthony, Borden, was acquitted. A lack of a murder weapon, no eyewitness testimony, an absence of what would qualify as “forensic evidence” of the day and potentially damning clues that were excluded by the judge are cited for her beating the rap. Public sentiment wasn’t kind to Borden, like it was to Anthony but officially she walked.

Lee-ann Wilber, proprietor of the Lizzie Borden Bed & Breakfast Museum, told the Boston Globe and the Associated Press that “I always take the middle ground when asked. I don’t know if she did it but I think she was involved. I think
she knew who did it.”

Could we see history repeat itself? the Borden home has a front-row view of the latest celebrity trial and across the street from the house that was the scene of a murder so strange not even J.B. Fletcher could solve it, Aaron Hernandez is trying to give his side of the story.

Based on pretrial court documents, his defense team, led by Charles Rankin and James Sultan, may employ many Lizzie-like arguments.

Like the Borden trial, they could not find the ax that did the deed and prosecutors have yet to produce the .45 caliber Glock pistol that they allege was used to murder Lloyd behind an industrial park in North Attleboro near Hernandez’s McMansion in June of 2013.

If the Commonwealth of Massachusetts is to get a conviction, it will have to do so on mostly circumstantial evidence, albeit what appears to be overwhelming circumstantial evidence.

Wilber said that while this is going to be an interesting trial, she’s not making any predictions. While some are on the side of Hernandez, others are saying “Fry him.”

Hernandez, who was cut by the Patriots after his arrest, will have a jury of his peers to decide his fate and those are the only opinions that matter. 12 of 18 jurors were seated Monday before the area was blasted by winter storm Juno that delayed opening statements a couple days. The jury of 13 women and five men, pulled from an initial pool of
1,000, were asked about everything from their NFL rooting interests to their views on tattoos. All 18 will hear testimony, with 12 eventually cited to make the decision.

Superior Court Judge E. Susan Garsh said the case is expected to run between six and 10 weeks. Hernandez is also facing weapons charges and the prosecution is expected to call Patriots owner Robert Kraft and coach Bill Belichick, both of whom are in Glendale, Arizona preparing for the Super Bowl, so they will not testify this week and even that’s not a certainty of them making an appearance as the benefit they pose to the commonwealth is uncertain – they obviously held a
positive opinion of Hernandez due to the fact they gave him a huge contract before being charged in this case.

It’s different world between what Lizzie Borden lived in and what Aaron Hernandez is in now. There was no CNN or Nancy Grace in 1892 and the only way America found out about what happened in Fall River was the telegraph.

Aaron Hernandez at least has satellite trucks posting up in snow banks and Internet connections whipping testimony out instantaneously.

A twist of fate 123 years in the making in a place where a woman who basically snapped and alledgedly killed her father and step-mother is now the site of a former NFL star that even if he is found not guilty saw his football career come to an end.

The jury system worked 123 years ago. It’s not perfect but at least Hernandez will get a fair trial. Superior Court Judge E. Susan Garsh said the case is expected to run between six and 10 weeks.

There’s one more thing… if you’re thinking about attending the trial, you might want to leave the NFL and sports stuff at home. The same presiding judge judge has issued an order saying that no one wearing New England Patriots or National Football League apparel will be allowed in the courtroom. “No person wearing clothing or a button or other object attached to clothing or carrying an object that displays any Patriots or other NFL team logo, football-related insignia or words and/or photograph that relate in any way to
this case will be permitted entry to the Fall River Justice Center during any phase of the trial,” the December 12 order from Judge E. Susan Garsh reads. 20 seats will be allocated to members of the public, along with another 20 for members of the news media. There will also be seating set aside for the Hernandez’s family or friends and Odin Lloyd’s family or friends.

Lizzie Borden. Aaron Hernandez. They are separated by 126 years in time. Borden was found not guilty and was the target of scorn. Could history repeat itself?

There’s no way of knowing.