BOSTON (AP) — Lawyers for Boston Marathon bombing suspect Dzhokhar Tsarnaev asked a federal appeals court again on Tuesday to order the judge to move his trial outside of Massachusetts, arguing he cannot get a fair trial here.
The request was the second time the defense has asked the 1st U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals to step in and take the decision on whether to move the trial out of the hands of Judge George O’Toole Jr.
The 1st Circuit rejected a similar request last month, before jury selection began.
In their new request, Tsarnaev’s lawyers say their review of questionnaires filled out by 1,373 prospective jurors show that 68 percent already believe Tsarnaev is guilty. They said 69 percent have identified some sort of personal connection or allegiance they have to the “people, places and/or events” in the case.
Three people were killed and more than 260 were injured when two bombs exploded near the marathon finish line on April 15, 2013.
Prosecutors say Tsarnaev, then 19, and his brother, Tamerlan, 26, planted and detonated two pressure-cooker bombs as retaliation for U.S. wars in Iraq and Afghanistan. Tamerlan Tsarnaev died following a gunbattle with police days after the bombings.
Dzhokhar Tsarnaev, now 21, could face the death penalty if convicted.
Tsarnaev’s lawyers argued that since the judge began individual questioning of prospective jurors, additional evidence of bias among jurors has been revealed. The defense cited a variety of personal connections noted by prospective jurors, including an emergency room doctor who treated both Tsarnaev and his brother when they were wounded during a getaway attempt days after the attack; a neighbor of the special agent in charge of the Boston FBI office at the time of the bombings; friends and acquaintances of people wounded; and people who donated to a fund to help victims of the attack.
“It is unrealistic to expect that even the most sincere and scrupulous jurors can shield themselves from the biases and connections that inundate the communities in which they, themselves, live,” Tsarnaev’s lawyers wrote.
The defense also cited remarks prospective jurors had written on their questionnaires or said while being questioned by the judge. The comments were redacted from the petition. But in the defense’s third motion to move the trial, filed Jan. 22, some of the comments were included, including a comment from one juror who wrote: “We all know he’s guilty so quit wasting everybody’s time with a jury and string him up.”
Tsarnaev’s lawyer said the jury selection process so far “has damaged both the appearance of impartiality and public confidence in the fairness of the proceedings beyond repair.”
A spokeswoman for U.S. Attorney Carmen Ortiz declined to comment.
O’Toole has said repeatedly that he believes a fair and impartial jury can be seated in Boston.
On Tuesday, a court official said individual questioning could be completed by the end of next week, despite delays caused by two separate snowstorms over the past week. Four days of individual questioning have been canceled because of the storms, including Tuesday’s session. Questioning was set to resume Wednesday.