Jury selection in the terrorism trial of a man accused of planting bombs last year in New York City and New Jersey began with sifting through a pool of about 140 potential jurors, some telling the judge that they have ties to people who have been killed or hurt in terrorist attacks.
Ahmed Khan Rahimi, 29, faces eight counts related to accusations that, on Sept. 17, 2016, he planted two pressure-cooker bombs in the Chelsea section of Manhattan, of which one detonated and caused a dumpster to shoot 120 feet in the air. The incident injured 30 people.
Rahimi is also accused of stashing pipe bombs near a charity race in Seaside, New Jersey, and at a train station in Elizabeth, New Jersey.
The charges against Rahimi, a U.S. citizen who was born in Afghanistan, include two counts of using a weapon of mass destruction. He has pleaded not guilty to the charges.
Answering questions on Monday from U.S. District Judge Richard Berman of the Southern District of New York, several of the potential jurors said that the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks in New York City and the 2013 bombing at the Boston Marathon have hit close to home.
One potential juror said his uncle died in the 9/11 attacks, while another said a friend who was a Port Authority of New York and New Jersey police officer perished in the attacks. Another potential juror said she worked as a nurse at St. Vincent’s Hospital in New York City on 9/11 and that the hospital took on victims from the attacks.
Among those who said that they might not be able to remain impartial in the case or follow instructions not to read media reports about the case or discuss it on social media was one potential juror who she and everyone she lives and works with are “constantly” using social media.
“I don’t know how I wouldn’t be able to find out about the case,” she said.
Assistant U.S. Attorneys Emil Bove III, Shawn Crowley, Andrew DeFilippis and Nicholas Lewin are prosecuting the case.
Rahimi’s defense team includes Sabrina Shroff, David Patton, Matthew Larson and Peggy Cross-Goldenberg of the Federal Defenders of New York.
Jury selection continues on Thursday and the trial is set to begin on Monday.
The defense was dealt a few setbacks in pretrial proceedings, including failed efforts to disqualify a notebook found on Rahimi’s person after his arrest containing references to foreign terrorist organizations and figures such as Osama bin Laden and Anwar al-Awlaki and to block testimony from an expert in terrorism and Arab and Islamic politics.
But Berman also blocked a bid by the prosecutors to include evidence from Rahimi’s alleged shoot-out and flight from police officers in Linden, New Jersey, in the New York case.
Rahimi also faces six counts in U.S. District Court for the District of New Jersey, including two counts of attempting to use a weapon of mass destruction. He also faces attempted murder charges in New Jersey Supreme Court related to the shoot-out with police.