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January 14, 2015

Judge rejects request to delay Boston bombing trial

Tsarnaev's trial will proceed despite the Paris attacks.

BOSTON - A U.S. judge on Wednesday rejected the latest plea by lawyers for accused Boston Marathon bomber Dzhokhar Tsarnaev to pause jury selection for his trial due to the recent attacks in Paris.

Tsarnaev's lawyers on Tuesday had argued that the Paris attacks, which started with a mass shooting at a satirical newspaper and left 17 people dead after three days of violence, would stir memories of the deadly 2013 blasts at the marathon, making it harder to select an impartial jury.

Jury selection for the trial began last week when some 1,350 candidates filled out questionnaires at U.S. District Court in Boston and will continue on Thursday when the first group of 20 jurors is brought in for follow-up questioning, a process known by the Latin phrase "voir dire."

"My detailed review of the juror questionnaires in preparation for voir dire 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," U.S. District Judge George O'Toole said in a electronic court filing on Wednesday.

The field of potential jurors called for the case, from which a 12-member jury and six alternates will be selected, is the largest ever summoned to Boston federal court. The numbers reflect how intensely personal the bombing attack and surrounding events were residents of the Boston area.

Thousands of people were crowded near the race's finish line on April 15, 2013, when the bombs went off, killing three people and injuring more than 260. Four days later, hundreds of thousands of residents of the greater Boston area were ordered to remain in their homes while police conducted a massive manhunt to find Tsarnaev the day after he and his older brother, Tamerlan, are charged with shooting dead a university police officer.

Tamerlan Tsarnaev died following a gun battle with police late on April 18, 2013. His younger brother, now 21, faces the threat of execution if convicted.

The Tsarnaevs were Muslim immigrants, and Dzhokhar Tsaranev left a note during the manhunt suggesting that their attack was intended as an act of retribution for U.S. military engagement in Muslim-dominated Iraq and Afghanistan.

Al Qaeda in Yemen on Wednesday claimed responsibility for last week's attack on the French newspaper, saying it was intended in retribution for cartoons featuring the Prophet Mohammed that the group deemed insulting.