BOSTON (AP) — Lawyers for Boston Marathon bombing suspect Dzhokhar Tsarnaev have made a second push to move his trial out of Boston, arguing that he cannot get a fair trial there because of the emotional impact of the deadly attack.
In a court filing Thursday responding to prosecutors’ opposition to moving the trial, Tsarnaev’s lawyers said a defense expert who analyzed poll results and media coverage found Massachusetts residents have “an overwhelming presumption of guilt” in reaction to Tsarnaev.
Tsarnaev’s lawyers are asking that his federal trial be moved to Washington, D.C., where they say poll results show people are less likely to assume he is guilty. If that isn’t granted, they ask the court to hold a pretrial hearing on their request.
Tsarnaev, 21, is awaiting a November trial in the deadly attack. Prosecutors say he and his brother, Tamerlan Tsarnaev, placed two pressure-cooker bombs near the finish line of the 2013 marathon, killing three people and injuring more than 260. Tamerlan Tsarnaev died following a shootout with police several days after the bombings.
In their original change of venue motion, filed in June, Tsarnaev’s lawyers said a survey of potential jurors in Boston; Springfield, Massachusetts; New York City and Washington suggested that the nation’s capital would be a more suitable location for the trial. They said Boston residents were the “most prejudiced” on a number of critical measures, based on the preliminary findings of a survey conducted in May. Their new filing adds more supporting details.
The filing counters prosecutors’ argument that the court should first attempt to pick a jury in Boston. The defense says it could be difficult to determine bias by questioning potential jurors, who might be affected by community pressure regardless of their own feelings.
The defense said the large population of Eastern Massachusetts, cited by the prosecution, does not mean bias is less likely, since over half were at the marathon or knew someone who was. They said that makes it similar to the 1995 Oklahoma City bombing case, when Timothy McVeigh’s trial was moved out of Oklahoma.
The Tsarnaev lawyers said moving his trial 90 miles away to Springfield is not enough distance to find different community attitudes, since their research shows it is “a close second in prejudice” against Tsarnaev.
The filing also said moving the trial after failed jury selection would only generate more unfavorable publicity, delay and waste of court resources.