The trial of accused Boston Marathon bomber Dzhokhar Tsarnaev finally got underway today with opening statements and testimony from the first witnesses.
It was such a busy day for me that I can no longer think straight so I’ll just post my sketches and let you read about it elsewhere.
Tsarnaev’s defense don’t dispute that their client planted the pressure cooker bomb but argue that he acted under the influence of his brother, Tamerlane. For that reason the defense briefly questioned only one of the government’s witnesses on cross.
After I don’t know how many weeks of jury selection in the trial of accused Boston Marathon bomber finally reached the last stage today, where each side exercised their peremptory challenges. A panel of 12 jurors and six alternates was selected and will be sworn in tomorrow before hearing opening statements and the first witnesses.
Tsarnaev appeared relaxed and in a good mood as he was greeted by his lawyers in the courtroom. Later as each side huddled to decide on their strikes Tsarnaev spent most of his time scribbling on a note pad he had on his lap.
This little sketch shows U.S. Attorney Carmen Ortiz, far left, and others waiting for court to begin. AP’s Denise Lavoie – she’d be more recognizable if I colored in her red hair – is shown standing with someone from the U.S. Attorney’s office.
“This is going to sound like a joke” Justice Alito said, “but, you know, it’s not.”
The not-joke was addressed to the lawyer for Abercrombie & Fitch who was defending the preppie fashion retailer’s decision not to hire an otherwise qualified teenager because she wore a hijab to her interview. Abercrombie says that her head covering was not in line with the company’s “classic East Coast collegiate style”. The EEOC sued the company on behalf of the teenager, Samantha Elauf, now 24, for not accommodating her religion.
Abercrombie’s defense: It couldn’t question her about her religion when she applied for a job, and she never informed them about her Muslim faith.
Which brings us back to Alito’s set-up: A Sikh wearing a turban, an Hasid wearing a shtreimel, a Muslim wearing a hijab, and a Catholic nun in habit go to the employment office and say, “we just want to tell you, we’re dressed this way for a religious reason. We’re not just trying to make a fashion statement”.
SCOTUSblog’s Amy Howe reports on the argument here.
It was bitterly cold outside the Supreme Court this morning which may explain why there were fewer spectators than usual for today’s arguments.
These sketches are of the first argument, Henderson v. U.S., concerning a felon’s attempt to transfer ownership of a gun collection that as a result of his conviction he was no longer allowed to possess. Tony Henderson, who pleaded guilty to marijuana distribution, asked that the firearms, which had no part of his crime, be sold to a friend or transferred to his wife. The government refused, of course, pointing out that such a close connection to the recipient amounted to “constructive possession“.
Henderson’s lawyer, UVa law professor Daniel Ortiz, began his argument stating that his client was willing to have the guns sold by a federally dealer, though that was not his preference. That seemed fairly reasonable and straight forward to me – hey, even a non-lawyer like me might be able to follow this argument. But then they pulled out the scalpels and started dissecting the meaning of possession, forfeiture, due process, dominion and takings. “Well, it’s a kind of complicated transaction . . . , Your Honor”, responded Ortiz to a question from Justice Kagan.
For its part, the government was okay with letting a dealer sell the guns. But when it came to who picks the dealer the lawyer for the government faced some tough questions, especially from Scalia.
Back on the bench after their winter break the first case argued before the Justices was on the subject of consular nonreviewability.
There’s a long history of leaving the power to regulate immigration to the legislative and executive branches. The courts have generally declined to review how the State Department decides who comes into the country. But the door to review may have been opened a bit by a 1972 Supreme Court opinion, Kleindienst v. Mandel, where, while upholding the Attorney General’s right to refuse entry to a Belgian Marxist, the Court said the “executive exercises the power . . on the basis of a facially legitimate and bona fide reason”.
Today’s case, Kerry v. Fauzia Din, involves a U.S. citizen who sought an immigration visa for her Afghani husband. The embassy rejected the visa application citing “security and related grounds”, i.e. “terrorist activity”. No further details for the rejection or review of the decision were forthcoming, so Din filed suit in District Court. The lower court dismissed but the Ninth Circuit reversed and found that the government owed her “a facially legitimate reason”.
And no, Justice Sotomayor did not break her arm over winter break. The black cast she is sporting is from a surgical procedure and due to come off later this week. It did not slow her down as she jumped into this morning’s argument with the first question.
Tsarnaev appeared understandably bored with voir-dire as questioning of individual jurors was repeated over and again. By day six it’s beginning to feel a bit like Groundhog Day, and may well go on till then.
Dzhokhar isn’t the only one losing interest. The networks have are now only interested in a few days of trial, so I’ll be back for opening statements, closing arguments, and perhaps a day or two of testimony.
As questioning, or voir-dire, of individual members of the jury pool gets off to a slow start I have the luxury of observing, almost at leisure, the defendant in the Boston Marathon bombing. I can’t report what I hear in the courtroom, but I can tell you what I see.
Each morning, before the judge takes the bench, Federal Public Defender Miriam Conrad has a friendly chat with Dzhokhar. I can’t see his expression, but she is smilling and he’s responding.
I hadn’t noticed it before, but Tsarnaev has a nasty looking scar running down the back of his neck from behind his left ear. Also, his upper eyelid is swollen and seems to bother him.
Tsarnaev often doodles on a legal pad as questioning of potential jurors drags on.
Individual voir dire of potential jurors in the trial of accused Boston Marathon bomber Dzhokhar Tsarnaev began today and is expected to go on for at least another week.
I lucked out as I was the only media allowed in the courtroom for the questioning of potential jurors (I was later joined by my fellow sketch-artist Jane Collins). The condition was that I not report what I heard, therefor I’ll just post sketches and shut up (my hearing’s not too good anyway).
“Justice Scalia has the opinions in two cases,” the Chief Justice announced as Scalia’s chair sat empty, “he’s asked that I announce them.”
It’s not unusual for the a senior justice to announce the opinion of an absent justice. There are often one or more empty chairs on opinion days when no arguments are heard. But there were two cases to be argued today and unless a justice has recused themselves you can expect that they’ll be on the bench.
Scalia did eventually appear from the maroon curtains behind the bench just as the first argument was getting under way, a sex discrimination case that was really about the EEOC’s failure to use “conciliation” in enforcing Title VII. It turns out the justice was merely delayed in traffic.
You can read Mark Walsh’s account of Scalia’s tardy arrival here on SCOTUSblog.
Here are a couple sketches fro the argument in Mach Mining v. EEOC.
Also spotted in the courtroom today, and also not unusual, was Cecilia Marshall, wife of the late Justice Thurgood Marshall. She is a frequent visitor to the Court.
The Supreme Court yesterday heard arguments about a small town’s attempt to regulate temporary signs directing the way to religious services. I’ll simply post my sketches and, if you want to read about it, I direct you to Lyle’s analysis on SCOTUSblog.