Judge Denies Motions To Move, Delay Tsarnaev Trial

In this courtroom sketch, Dzhokhar Tsarnaev appears in federal court in Boston for a final hearing before his January trial. (Jane Flavell Collins/AP)
In this courtroom sketch, Dzhokhar Tsarnaev appears in federal court in Boston for a final hearing before his January trial. (Jane Flavell Collins/AP)

A judge on Wednesday denied requests by lawyers for Boston Marathon bombing suspect Dzhokhar Tsarnaev to move his trial out of state and to delay its start, meaning jury selection in will begin Monday in Boston federal court.

U.S. District Court Judge George O'Toole Jr. issued his denials Wednesday and said explanations will be issued later in the day.

Defense lawyers had said it would be impossible to find an impartial jury in Massachusetts given the massive amounts of publicity the case has received. They also said the trial should be delayed so they could better prepare and review enormous amounts of discovery turned over by prosecutors.

Tsarnaev has pleaded not guilty to 30 federal charges connected to the April 2013 explosions at the finish line that killed three and injured more than 260. He faces the death penalty if convicted.

Prosecutors say Tsarnaev, 21, and his older brother, Tamerlan, planted and detonated two pressure-cooker bombs. Tamerlan died following a firefight with police several days after the bombings. Dzhokhar was captured later that day, wounded and hiding in a boat parked in a backyard in Watertown, a Boston suburb.

Jury selection is expected to take several weeks because of extensive media coverage and the thousands of runners, spectators and others in the area personally affected by the bombings. The process also could be slowed if potential jurors express objections to the death penalty.

Also Wednesday, O'Toole issued a decorum order for the trial. Among other things, it prohibits courtroom spectators from wearing any clothing, buttons or other items "that carry any message or symbol addressing the issues related to this case that may be or become visible to the jury." The ban includes law enforcement uniforms and badges, except for those worn by on-duty U.S. marshals or court security officers.

Tsarnaev will first be tried on the 30 charges against him, and if convicted on any capital charges a second trial would be held to determine if he should receive the death penalty.

Defense lawyers claimed in motions seeking a delay in the trial that the prosecution has not handed over everything they have requested, including information that they believe may show that Tsarnaev was under the influence of his older brother.

The defense also wanted more time to review information regarding Stephen Silva, who recently pleaded guilty to having once possessed the gun prosecutors said the bombing suspects used to kill an MIT police officer.

In a court filing opposing the request for a delay, prosecutors rejected complaints by Tsarnaev's lawyers about their ability to digest the volume of material provided by the government as the trial approached. Prosecutors said much of that information was demanded by the defense and voluntarily turned over by the government "in the spirit of openness."

In rejecting Tsarnaev's first request in September to move the trial, O'Toole said his lawyers had failed to show that extensive pretrial media coverage of the bombings had prejudiced the jury pool to the point that an impartial jury could not be chosen in Boston.

But the defense continued to press its case for a change of venue, comparing the pretrial media coverage in the marathon bombing case to that in the case of Oklahoma City bomber Timothy McVeigh, whose trial was moved to Denver. McVeigh was ultimately convicted and put to death for the bombing, which killed 168 people and injured hundreds more.

This article was originally published on December 31, 2014.



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