Lawyers for Dzhokhar Tsarnaev, one of the suspects in the 2013 Boston Marathon bombings, asked a federal judge on Wednesday for a change of venue. In filing their request, they cited a survey conducted last month in Massachusetts that showed “an overwhelming presumption of guilt” and a view that the death penalty was the appropriate sentence for Tsarnaev.
Defense lawyers asserted that the community impact in the Boston Marathon bombing trial of Dzhokhar Tsarnaev was greater than it was for the trial of Oklahoma City bomber Timothy McVeigh, reports NBC News. That trial was moved from Oklahoma to Denver, Colorado. A high number of people in the survey and potential jury pull either attended or participated in the 2013 Boston Marathon, or they know someone who did.
The survey found that about 58 percent of respondents in Boston thought Tsarnaev was guilty. The lawyers noted that the findings in Boston contrast with 48 percent in New York City and 37 percent in Washington, D.C. Because of this, they asserted that the trial should be moved to the nation’s capital.
Dzhokhar Tsarnaev is accused of helping his brother, Tamerlan Tsarnaev, plant bombs at the finish line of the 2013 race. Tamerlan was killed during the ensuing manhunt that paralyzed Boston and forced police to issue a city-wide lockdown for an entire day. Dzhokhar pleaded not guilty to killing four people and injuring more than 200 in the attacks.
CNN notes that, in making their case to move the trial, the lawyers asserted that both New York City and Washington, D.C., are “reasonably close, accessible to witnesses and interested persons, and able to logistically accommodate a trial of this magnitude.”
Along with the change in venue request for Tsarnaev’s upcoming trial, U.S. District Judge George O’Toole heard arguments on Wednesday about whether the suspect’s alleged “betrayal” of the United States was a major factor for seeking the death penalty against him.
The arguments came after the defense accused prosecutors of trying to use Tsarnaev’s foreign birth and immigration to imply that he was somehow “more blameworthy, and more deserving of severe punishment” for his alleged crimes than a native person who commits an identical one.
Prosecutors asserted that Dzhokhar received asylum from the United States and “enjoyed the freedoms of a United States citizen; and then betrayed his allegiance to the United States” by killing and maiming its citizens. The court filing adds that the government also claimed Tsarnaev’s motive was to “provide aid and comfort to America’s enemies.” O’Toole agreed with the defense, explaining that drawing a distinction between naturalized and natural-born citizens was “highly inappropriate.”
Dzhokhar Tsarnaev’s trial relating to the 2013 Boston Marathon bombing is expected to begin in November, and the defense asked Wednesday for more time to study the issue of changing venues before the schedule start date.