Why “Je Suis Charlie” May Be Clouding the Boston Marathon Bombing Trial

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Dzhokhar Tsarnaev's defense thinks the Charlie Hebdo version of "Boston Strong" will affect his trial.

Dzhokhar Tsarnaev’s defense thinks the Charlie Hebdo version of “Boston Strong” will affect his trial.

“Je Suis Charlie” and “Boston Strong” are too close for comfort for Dzhokhar Tsarnaev’s defense team.

The recent media-drawn parallels between the Charlie Hebdo attacks in Paris and the Boston Marathon Bombing could re-inflame passions among potential jurors in Tsarnaev’s trial, his attorneys argued in a motion asking U.S. District Judge George O’Toole Jr. to suspend jury selection for at least a month.

In the motion filed on Jan. 13, Tsarnaev’s attorneys say that:

even before the Paris attacks, there was no modern precedent of which we are aware for attempting to seat an impartial jury in a community that had been so recently, so grievously, and so widely affected by a single series of crimes. Now, at the very moment that this attempt is to be made, the Boston bombings are being newly placed at the center of a grim global drama. At a minimum, the Court should pause long enough to let this latest storm subside.”

The parallels between events surrounding the Paris attacks and the Boston Marathon Bombing are close enough to Boston for the kind of facile, surface-level comparisons that quickly gain traction in media accounts.

For example, on Jan. 7, the third day of jury selection, terrorists killed 12 people at the offices of the magazine Charlie Hebdo. The next day, a policewoman was fatally shot in another related Paris attack. On Jan. 9, four hostages were killed by a terrorist at a Paris kosher grocery store. The suspects in the Charlie Hebdo attack, who were killed later that day by security forces, were brothers.

Perhaps that’s the biggest reason why almost immediately after the attacks,

the press, politicians, and commentators drew parallels between the French attacks and the Boston Marathon bombing. The supposed parallels included the fact that the suspects were brothers, that they reportedly were influenced by the lectures and writings of Anwar al-Awlaki, that they were ‘home-grown’ terrorists, and that they attacked civilians in a Western city.

Then there is a potential government witness who’s made public statements about the similarities. Evan Kohlmann, a terrorism consultant whom the government plans to call to the stand in the Tsarnaev case, also weighed in. While he was quoted in USA Today as saying it was too early to determine how similar the two attacks are, the motion quotes him as saying that:

Obviously it’s tempting to look at the . . . suspects in France through the lens of the Tsarnaev brothers.

The other potential comparisons the defense thinks could affect the Boston jury include:

 •  Area residents who attended a rally on Boston Common “in solidarity with France” were quoted in the New York Times as saying that the events in France “created more fear” and “gives [Tsarnaev] a global context,” and that some of those attending the rally held banners saying, “Boston is France” and “Boston Strong.”

 •  A video presentation on CNN emphasized those parallels in particularly dramatic and graphic form.

 •  WBUR quoted Congressman Bill Keating (D-MA) as describing the similarities as “almost eerie,” and detailing how the attacks resonate in Boston.

Even now, the “Boston Strong” slogan still resonates among Bostonians, and as WhoWhatWhy has pointed out, that kind of emotional sloganeering often acts to cloud more rational assessments of facts and events.

So with “Je Suis Charlie” now echoing in the media chorus alongside “Boston Strong,” it’s understandable that the defense is concerned that the remaining 1,000 or so potential jurors are hearing it, too.

Judge O’Toole, however, was unpersuaded. He denied the motion, stating that his “detailed review of the juror questionnaires in preparation for voir dire has confirmed, rather than undermined, my judgment that a fair and impartial jury can and will be chosen.”

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9 responses to “Why “Je Suis Charlie” May Be Clouding the Boston Marathon Bombing Trial”

  1. mina catheb says:

    When will this site live up to it’s big name? This is simply everyday common media story that could be written by a high school student. Where are the sources and additional info that are suppose to set this writing apart from mainstream media? And each time someone writes on the BMB on this site, it’s the same recycled stuff with a bias spin.

  2. disqus_a2SRiKaB1i says:

    While O’Toole, deluded with images of his own legacy from the Tsarnaev trial (biggest thing since 9/11) marches through the streets of Boston wearing his “Emperors New Clothes”, i.e. his blind claim that Tsarnaev can receive a fair trial in “Boston Strong-land, more like Boston Wrong-land), most agree that the trial should be postponed as a result of the Paris Charlie Hebdo, its similarities and escalating anti-Islamic fervor. They are like bleach added to the ammonia of Boston’s blood thirst for a guilty verdict.

  3. jane24 says:

    Last weeks events in Paris were of course a tragedy for the people of Paris and indeed France and more than a little unfortunate for anyone who held out any remaining hope of a fair trial for Dzhokhar Tsarnaev in the city of Boston. As outlined in this article, (thanks Lara Turner), the comparable factors are few but are nevertheless being used to rekindle negative emotions, at least in the Northeast. The fact that Tsarnaev’s defense had little choice other than to file a motion to suspend jury selection is I think regrettable, as for some this served to amplify the “Muslim terrorist” theme in regard to the bombing of the Boston Marathon. Could Judge O’Toole’s denial of this motion be yet another item for that growing list of grounds for appeal?

  4. EyesWideOpen says:

    “Usually Muslim terrorists are prepared to die in the attack; yet the two professionals who hit Charlie Hebdo were determined to escape and succeeded, an amazing feat. Their identity was allegedly established by the claim that they conveniently left for the authorities their ID in the getaway car. Such a mistake is inconsistent with the professionalism of the attack and reminds me of the undamaged passport found miraculously among the ruins of the two WTC towers that served to establish the identity of the alleged 9/11 hijackers.

    It is a plausible inference that the ID left behind in the getaway car was the ID of the two Kouachi brothers, convenient patsies, later killed by police, and from whom we will never hear anything, and not the ID of the professionals who attacked Charlie Hebdo. An important fact that supports this inference is the report that the third suspect in the attack, Hamyd Mourad, the alleged driver of the getaway car, when seeing his name circulating on social media as a suspect realized the danger he was in and quickly turned himself into the police for protection against being murdered by security forces as a terrorist.”

    http://www.paulcraigroberts.org/2015/01/13/charlie-hebdo-paul-craig-roberts/

  5. daniel wilson says:

    “Boston strong” eh? I won’t attribute the hashtag/slogan to the two students who started selling shirts that night and who of course somehow have amazing powers of virility by way of their selling international business amounts of product in a heartbeat out of their dorm room. Let’s attribute it to Curtis Clough. He has met the Boston Red Sox baseball team management and has worked installing department of homeland security “anti-terrorism-level-technology”. It is said a baseball player from that team helped spur the phrase going “viral”. Also , and it is probably just something I can’t figure out , probably an Ohio related “twitter” time zone thing I haven’t figured out but he “tweeted” #bostonstrong at 12:38 pm.

    • EyesWideOpen says:

      … & John Henry just happens to own the Red Sox, purchases the Boston Globe & hires youthful Michael Sheehan, Chairman, Hill, Holliday, Connors, Cosmopoulos, Inc. and Director, The One Fund, who “Retires” to work for him.

      The Boston Globe was the only tweeter of the one minute warning of the “drill” opposite the Copley square library.

    • daniel wilson says:

      I’m just reading your comment now and immediately recognize the name Michael Sheehan and glad to see I have something saved in “paint” under that name. So thanks for throwing some names around for us to play with! Oh this tangled web! *digs into names. Hmm… Sheehan was at an awards thing with Richard Donahue and Paul Vance…I guess I haven’t done enough work on the one fund to recognize those right away! so much work to do… see ya ’round!