Reflections About Jury Selection

I realized that while we have been retweeting reporters’ tweets for the duration of jury selection, we have yet to make a blog entry about what’s been happening. With the jury set to be whittled down to 18 (12 jurors + 6 alternates) on Tuesday and opening arguments set for Wednesday, it’s pretty much now or never to post one.

I’m going to skip any discussion about the potential jurors because what’s been particularly interesting hasn’t been who the jurors are and what they have said, but rather how Jahar has acted and appeared during voir dire and how he has interacted with his lawyers.

Physical Health

It’s been clear that Jahar is still dealing with effects from the injuries he suffered the night of his capture.

Along those lines, the author of Patsy’s Vodka (a tumblr blog), who attended jury selection a couple days in February wrote, “I did manage to get a better look at his face today, it swollen on the left side and his mouth seems a bit twisted, maybe nerve damage.”

In response to this, Patsy’s Vodka wrote:

Yes lots of this, he most likely has stiffness in his hand. That’s what it looked like to me. I do too after breaking my elbow. He seems to have full use of his left hand and fingers though He was flipping thru some papers with his left hand and successfully poured three cups of water with no issue.

It seems too like something is wrong with his eye.

Mike Hayes from Buzzfeed wrote near the beginning of the jury selection process, “His left eye appeared badly swollen and he rubbed it frequently.”

Also, I’m concerned that his eyesight has been affected either from an injury or from solitary confinement (one of the typical side effects of prolonged solitary confinement is vision loss).

It seems like he may not be eating properly in prison because he’s been described as thin by multiple people.

It also seems like he’s extra susceptible to getting sick because he appeared to have had two colds during February.

Lastly, to my knowledge, none of the observations to date shed any light on whether he still can’t hear out of his left ear (someone point me to one if I’m wrong).

Prayer: Father, please heal Jahar’s injuries through the mighty name of Jesus Christ. May he come to see that the One who heals him is the One who stands ready and willing to save him. Please help him to have a good appetite and immune system. Protect him, Father, from the physical effects of solitary confinement, including vision loss.

Reaction to the Death Penalty

Every day that a new group of potential jurors was questioned, Judge O’Toole explained how this is a capital case and what the process of determining a sentence would entail. Virtually every juror was asked about his or her willingness to impose the death penalty, and such comments were made with Jahar sitting right there.

Each day, Jahar sat there seemingly unmoved by all of the death penalty talk.

That is with one interesting exception. Art Lien, a court sketch artist who attended jury selection near the beginning, wrote, “I’m also certain he uttered something, perhaps under his breath, as the judge mentioned the death penalty. His mouth opened as he stroked his beard and his lips moved.”

What does all of it mean? Does he feel so hopeless that he doesn’t even care anymore? Does he want to die? Is he afraid of a death sentence? That’s anyone’s guess.

Prayer: Father, if Jahar feels so hopeless that he just wants to die, give him a reason to live and the strength to carry on. Keep him from becoming suicidal. May the reality of his possible future execution weigh on his mind and get him questioning whether he’s really bound for Paradise. May he find no such assurance in Islam and that get him searching. Lord, it would break our hearts for Jahar to be sentenced to death, but if somehow that is necessary for him to come to faith in Christ, Your will be done.

Being Completely Zoned Out

I’ll get into Jahar’s interactions with his lawyers in a bit, but for now, it’s sufficient to mention that there’s almost a switch that’s flipped. He’s animated and engaged with his lawyers, but the moment Judge O’Toole and the jurors enter, he completely shuts off.

To illustrate his disengagement:

Surely it would be in his best interest to present himself as positively as possible to the jurors, so why the disengagement? If he got progressively disengaged over the course of the day, I’d say it’s boredom, but that’s not what’s happening. He’s disengaged from the moment the judge and jurors enter.

My theory is that he has chosen to disengage as a result of shame, fear, hopelessness, or some combination of those three. He doesn’t know how to handle those feelings, so he’s decided to shut off and ignore everything that’s going around him.

He definitely doesn’t strike me as someone who’s excessively proud of what he’s done. After all, someone who’s proud would probably laugh or smirk as the bombing is being discussed, and he’s done nothing of the sort. If anything, he’s ashamed. I find it interesting how it seems like he’s trying to hide from the jurors. Maybe he’s just afraid of them because some of them will hold his fate in their hands and he realizes that some of them likely hate him and wish all sorts of evil on him. But maybe he’s started to realize the gravity of what he did, and he’s feeling ashamed.

I could be entirely off on suggesting it’s shame, fear, or hopelessness. Maybe it’s something else entirely. What it is for sure is odd and not conducive to winning the jury’s sympathy in the penalty phase.

Prayer: Father, we have no way of getting inside Jahar’s head to know why he’s acting the way he is. But you know. You know exactly what he’s feeling. God, if he’s still extremely proud of what he’s done, despite none of his behavior suggesting so, open his eyes to see the devastation he caused and see that what he did breaks Your heart rather than pleases You. If he’s ashamed, may he see his need for forgiveness and realize that Islam does not offer him the forgiveness he desperately needs. May his desperation bring him to his knees and get him crying out to You and asking if there is any way to be forgiven. May he seek out a way to be forgiven and in that search find the forgiveness freely offered him at the cross. If he’s afraid, may he encounter the One who can take all of his fears away and replace them with a peace that surpasses all understanding. If he’s feeling hopeless, may he be led to Christ where he can find a hope that no one can take away from him—the certainty of eternal life and the joy of being in Your presence forever. Lord, may Jahar not be so zoned out at the trial so that he will be affected by the testimony, evidence, and victim impact statements and convicted of his sin.

His Interactions With His Lawyers

I think it only right that I begin this section by saying, “Thank You Lord for the lawyers You’ve blessed Jahar with, particularly Judy Clarke and Miriam Conrad.” It doesn’t take much to understand why:

Jahar’s attorneys, particularly Miriam and Judy, are treating him as if he’s actually human. What a contrast to how most people want to treat him.

I love the way my friend put it:

Here he is in solitary confinement under SAMS, despised by most of the world – having to hear about how he should be blown up at the finish line…..and he’s got those two rubbing his back and making him smile and laugh…..and the respect and appreciation he has for them is HUGE if they are Christians and ever share the Gospel with him.

To quote another tumblr blog, Lost Angels in Tragic Kingdoms:

You know, I was just thinking the other day how [Miriam] (and for that matter, the other attorneys and staff from the Public Defenders Office working on this case) must have been deeply affected themselves by the BMB. Boston is their home too. They may even know people they care about who were at the finish line that day. To know that and yet to read in the reporters’ tweets and see in the court sketches how caring and attentive Conrad is toward him…she has been there looking out for him since the moment he was rushed to the hospital. To be able to look beyond her own pain and anger and the inevitable public ridicule and dedicate herself to helping him at a point in his life when he’d sunk to his lowest — I just have so much respect for her mental fortitude and moved beyond what I can express. I have no idea what, if any, religion she follows, but what she has been doing for him — that is Christlike behavior.

I’ve been wondering for a while if Miriam and/or Judy are Christians because that is honestly the best word I’ve seen used to describe their behavior: “Christ-like.” He clearly respects and appreciates them. So if they know Christ, then that just might be the open door we’ve been praying for since the SAMs slammed doors shut.

Even if they don’t know Christ, I am so grateful for Miriam and Judy because they’re helping Jahar keep going every day by the way they treat him and care about him. I shudder to think what life’s going to be like for him once he no longer has them around.

I read an article about Judy Clarke recently and found this quote particularly profound and pertinent: “They’re looking into the lens of life in prison in a box. Our job is to provide them with a reason to live.” I hope Judy has been able to do just that. And maybe, just maybe, she or Miriam would provide him with the ultimate reason to live: a relationship with Jesus Christ and all of the hope, joy, peace, strength, purpose, fulfillment, and forgiveness that flows from it.

Prayer: Father, I thank You for giving Jahar Miriam, Judy, Timothy, David, and William. Thank You for how they’ve fought relentlessly for his rights. Please give them guidance as this trial begins on how best to defend him, particularly in the penalty phase. Thank You for the way they’ve treated him and the emotional support they’ve provided him. May their interactions with him keep him going every day and counter the destructive effects of solitary confinement. And Father, if any of them know You, please use them to lead Jahar to Yourself. It seems as if every door is shut, but if any of them are Your children, there’s actually a wide open door for the Gospel to reach him. May they pour out Your love upon Jahar and shine forth Your light in the way they treat him. May he see the difference in them and want to have what they have. Burden their hearts for him, that they would see that what’s really at stake here is not guilty vs. not guilty or the death penalty vs. life without parole, but rather heaven vs. hell. Open their eyes to opportunities to share the Gospel with him not only in deed but also through words. May the relationship they’ve built with him cause him to be open to what they share with him.

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2 Responses to Reflections About Jury Selection

  1. Linda says:

    Bri thank you so much for writing these updates. I had a hard time reading because my eyes were blurring with tears. Just thinking about this young man and what he is having to go through. With God nothing is impossible. Lord You are the one who needs to break through this terrible situation and shine Your light. Please God – listen to and honor the many many prayers being said for Jahar.

    • Bri says:

      It’s all so incredibly heartbreaking. I long for redemption to rise up out of the midst of this tragedy, even for the one who caused all of it. I see the miserable, wretched, broken state Jahar is in and realize he doesn’t have to stay there; there is grace enough for him, and the image of God in him can shine forth in glory. Oh how I long for that to happen! May there be incredible victory in Jahar’s life through Christ.

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