Judge denies request for change in ‘Boston bomber’ trial location
(CNN) — Dzhokhar Tsarnaev’s request for a new location for his trial in connection with the Boston Marathon bombings and violent encounters with police days later was denied Wednesday by a federal judge.
“Although the media coverage in this case has been extensive, at this stage the defendant has failed to show that it has so inflamed and pervasively prejudiced the pool that a fair and impartial jury cannot be impaneled in the (Eastern District of Massachusetts),” U.S. District Judge George O’Toole said.
O’Toole’s ruling means that the trial in one of the most scarring episodes in Boston history will stay in Boston.
With his older brother Tamerlan, Dzhokhar Tsarnaev is accused of planting two explosives hidden inside backpacks on April 15, 2013, along downtown Boston’s busy Bolyston Street near the marathon’s finish line. The bombs exploded 12 seconds apart, killing 8-year-old Martin Richard, 29-year-old Krystle Campbell and Lingzi Lu, a Boston University graduate student from China, and injuring more than 200 others.
Three days later, a Massachusetts Institute of Technology police officer named Sean Collier was shot and killed on campus — allegedly by the bombing suspects. Then, early on April 19, authorities say the Tsarnaev brothers hijacked a car in nearby Cambridge, then exchanged gunfire and thew explosives out the window when police began to chase them.
Tamerlan Tsarnaev died in that exchange. His younger brother wasn’t found until the next day, bloodied and in a boat parked in a Watertown, Massachusetts, backyard.
The marathon bombings and subsequent manhunt spurred intense media coverage in Massachusetts and beyond. “Boston Pride” became an often repeated mantra in the region as locals rallied in support of one another and in opposition to those behind the violence.
The attention spurred Dzhokhar Tsarnaev to ask for his trial to be moved out of Massachusetts, his lawyers arguing “that pretrial publicity and public sentiment” jeopardized his opportunity for a fair trial.
O’Toole shot down the defense case on several grounds, including the argument that 12 impartial jurors couldn’t be found in the area. He noted that Massachusetts’ eastern federal district has about 5 million people.
“It stretches the imagination to suggest that an impartial jury cannot be successfully selected from this large pool of potential jurors,” the judge wrote.
It’s not like only Massachusetts residents know about this case, he added. For a time, this was a huge international story — meaning that people from coast-to-coast, and not just around Boston, might have formed opinions about it he said.
“It is doubtful whether a jury could be selected anywhere in the country whose members were wholly unaware of the marathon bombings,” O’Toole said.
Tsarnaev faces more than 30 federal charges tied to the entire episode, including using and conspiring to use a weapon of mass destruction resulting in death.
Federal prosecutors announced earlier this year that they will seek the death penalty against him, arguing he acted in “an especially heinous, cruel and depraved manner” and lacks remorse.
While Tsarnaev wasn’t able to move his trial location, he did win — at least partially — in one regard Wednesday: His trial date has been delayed.
The defense had asked that the trial be pushed back from November 3 to September 1, 2015, due to the large volume of information — or “discovery” — in the case.
O’Toole delayed the trial until January 5, 2015, not long after the final pretrial conference hearing set for December 18.
CNN’s Lawrence Crook contributed to this report.