PM WRAP O TOOLE 040616.mp3

It has been nearly a year since the conclusion of the trial of convicted Marathon bomber, Dzhokhar Tsarnaev.

The judge in that case, George A. O’Toole, has never spoken outside the courtroom about the trial.  But on Wednesday he addressed a forum at Boston College Law School about aspects of the case, including how the jury was constructed. 

He spoke on a panel of scholars to a room full of lawyers-in-training with a few journalists sprinkled in. 

Judge O’Toole’s Full Speech


Because Tsarnaev’s death penalty sentence is being appealed by a new team of lawyers, Judge O’Toole said he would not comment on the merits of the case. 

He said the court “custom designed” the Tsarnaev jury selection process and voir dire to arrive at a fair verdict and the fairest possible jury representation.

“In this I followed the template, the trail that had been blazed for me by my colleague Judge [Denise] Casper, when she conducted the trial of the Whitey Bulger case.”

To create the fairest possible jury, O’Toole says the court sent out notices to three-thousand possible jurors and 2800 responded. Part of the process of selection included some tough questions about the death penalty. Jurors were required to state a willingness to impose it.

During a question and answer session Judge O’Toole was asked by WGBH about the absence of racial diversity on the jury. 

Some, including Harvard Law school professor Charles Ogletree, have argued that the under-representation of young people and people of color on the Tsarnaev jury may have increased the chance of a death verdict being rendered because these groups are more prone to oppose the ultimate sentence.

O’Toole said the 12 jurors and six alternates chosen were the result of random selection and not purposeful in any way. For example, said O’Toole, several jurors dismissed from the jury pool were Hispanic.

“I only remember one of them.  A woman was working as a police dispatcher for Northeastern University the night of the offense.  So it didn’t matter what her heritage was.  That was a good reason why she should not be on the jury.”    



Fellow panelist, BC law professor Robert Blum [who served as an analyst for WGBH during the trial], called the jury’s decision to impose the death penalty in the bombing trial “inappropriate” but put the principal “blame” on the US Attorney’s Office in Boston.

And while Judge O’Toole was willing to discuss jury selection and the process he declined to discuss the contentious question raised  over change of venue, because it is expected to be the basis of a federal appeal by Tsarnaev’s new team of lawyers.  An initial filing took place in January, but a date has not yet been set for the hearing. 

At the conclusion of the event O’Toole was asked if he has any lingering questions or doubts about the Boston Marathon Bombing trial outcome.  He said no.  He had moved on.