Sunday, August 10, 2014

Tsarnaev Team: ‘Inflammatory’ Coverage of Boston Bombing Taints Jury Pool

Boston Globe/Getty Images
Coverage of the Boston Marathon bombings was so saturated with “inflammatory” language that accused bomber Dzhokhar Tsarnaev cannot expect a fair trial in Massachusetts, an expert for his defense argues in a new court filing.

Lawyers for Mr. Tsarnaev on Thursday submitted a 37-page sworn declaration from a retired political science professor at California State University at Chico, Edward J. Bronson, who conducted a study of how last year’s bombings were covered in the Boston Globe and other major newspapers.
The findings, they say, support their case for moving the death-penalty case to Washington, D.C., where they say Mr. Tsarnaev would likely face a less biased jury pool.

Federal prosecutors, who accuse Mr. Tsarnaev of carrying out the April 2013 bombings alongside his older brother Tamerlan, have argued that the trial should stay in the city where the attack took place. They say it’s possible to find fair and impartial jurors in the eastern part of Massachusetts, a region of roughly 5 million people and the area from which federal jurors would be drawn.
The Globe has more on the venue dispute:
Bronson analyzed media reports in The Boston Globe and other outlets for the defense team and found that “the Globe’s coverage was marked by an overload of inflammatory themes, words, phrases, and passages,” the lawyers wrote.

The professor added in his report that “terror,” “terrorist,” and related terms were used to characterize Tsarnaev more than 1,400 times in the Globe. The specific word “terrorist” was used more than 620 times, Bronson wrote, though “often the word was not used to characterize Mr. Tsarnaev, but as part of phrases like terrorist attack.”
Mr. Bronson said the use “of these inflammatory and emotive terms” eclipses any other capital case he’s studied going back more than 40 years. That includes the 1995 Oklahoma City bombing.
When he refers to inflammatory coverage, Mr. Bronson writes that he means articles about the bombing that contain “elements of sensationalism or hostile, inflated, emotional, or loaded terms, themes, or language.”

In an interview with Law Blog, Mr. Bronson said he’s not attacking the journalistic integrity of the bombing coverage but commenting on its potential impact on readers. “It’s not casting aspersions on any newspapers,” he said.

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