News, Off Campus

BC Alum Summoned For Boston Bomber Trial

Erin Dionne, BC ’97, has spent the last three months thinking about Dzhokhar Tsarnaev, otherwise known as the Boston Bomber. Dionne was one of the 1,300 people that composed the jury pool, though she was not officially selected for the final jury of the trial.

Dionne, who received the summons in December, said she felt the various pressures of friends and family members who did not hesitate to tell her their own thoughts about the case. She was required to fill out a 23-page survey as part of the selection process for the final jury.

“I was a little surprised by people’s reactions,” Dionne said. “Deeper into it, I really felt the weight of the responsibility of what these jurors will be asked to do. It was kind of upsetting because people were tending to blow off their duty for jury duty and I looked at this as a social responsibility that we had for the victims and the city.”

Dionne explained that many people shared their opinions in hopes of changing the way she thought and acted during the case. They did not understand the reality of the case and what it represented for Dionne, she said.

“I understand that people who weren’t directly involved had the luxury of speculation and hyperbole, but it was just very different from reality of being involved in the whole process,” Dionne said. “I felt a little annoyed, really.”

Dionne expressed that it was difficult for her to accept Tsarnaev as a criminal because his persona and appearance were very similar to the students that she instructs daily at Montserrat College of Art.

“He looked like one of my sophomores,” Dionne said. “How stupid of a decision did he make? Every person is here because of this kid. It was so frustrating in a lot of ways, like had he gone left instead of right, we wouldn’t be here today.”

Dionne expanded on the severity of Tsarnaev’s actions. As a college educator, Dionne found it difficult to unjustly judge him before seeing all of the evidence. She struggled, however, to not feel frustrated at the man who had changed the dynamic of the Boston Marathon forever. She felt profoundly disappointed in the way his actions affected strangers, she said.

Tsarnaev likely received extreme coaching for his disposition over the course of the trial, Dionne said.

“He did not really make eye contact,” she said. “He looked down, kept his face very neutral, did not show any emotion. He seemed uncomfortable, fidgety, looking at his hands, shifting in his chair, but looking at his face there was no emotion at all. He barely looked at the jurors.”

After the marathon, Dionne had written a blog post regarding her feelings toward the Boston Bomber, before he had been identified. She found it interesting to compare her perspectives from the past and present in regard to Tsarnaev. Her piece focused on the transformation of the marathon, from a day of celebration to one attached to tragedy.

Dionne expressed her uncertainty about the future of the trial. When she herself was undergoing the summons process, reporters were referencing the jurors and becoming involved in the trial. Dionne expressed the amount of influence social media has and how important it is to understand the struggle of those involved in the case.

“It’s really going to depend on the evidence that the jurors see,” Dionne explained. “There were a lot of reports coming out of the courtroom, but I do not think that you can appreciate what the jurors are weighing and what their decisions are unless you are in that chair.”

Considering how this tragedy has tinged the Boston Marathon, Dionne shares her own thoughts on the transformation of the race. As a BC alum, Dionne reflected on her days at BC and how important the Boston Marathon was to her.

“This scars that race forever because now it has this tragedy attached to it,” she said. “BC provides a lot of hope for the runners and the community of the college has rallied around the marathon and it only grows stronger in the wake of the tragedy.”

After her juror experiences, Dionne was able to give final words of advice to those watching the trial as it proceeds. She instructs us all to consider the lives of those directly involved in the case.

“The media is quick to judge and turn people into two-dimensional figures,” Dionne said. “I would urge them to remember that the lives of all involved are affected. Think about the human toll on all of the people, which shouldn’t be minimized or brushed off. Push for kindness and thoughtfulness when all of this ends.”

Featured Image by Michael Dwyer / AP Photo

March 16, 2015