Lawyers say Boston Marathon bombing suspect should be tried in Washington

Dzhokhar Tsarnaev's lawyers cite a poll that shows a majority in Boston believe he is guilty of the marathon bombing.
By Frances Burns  |  June 19, 2014 at 1:30 PM
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BOSTON, June 19 (UPI) -- Lawyers for accused Boston Marathon bomber Dzhokhar Tsarnaev say a majority of Bostonians believe he is guilty and want his trial moved to Washington.

A motion filed Wednesday for a change of venue included a poll that showed 58 percent of the city's residents have already made up their minds about Tsarnaev's guilt. The defense team suggested four locations, including Springfield, Mass.

Tsarnaev, 20, and his older brother, Tamerlan, 26, allegedly set off two bombs near the marathon finish line on April 15, 2013. The bombs, apparently timed to go off when the middle-of-the-pack runners would be finishing and their family and friends waiting for them, killed three people and injured more than 260.

Tamerlan Tsarnaev was killed in a confrontation with police a few days later. The brothers also allegedly shot and killed a Massachusetts Institute of Technology police officer while they were on the run.

The trial is currently set to begin in November in U.S. District Court in Boston. Tsarnaev could face the death penalty if he is convicted.

In the application to move the trial, lawyer Judy Clarke compared the case to the 1995 Oklahoma City bombing, which killed 168 people. Timothy McVeigh, who was convicted and executed, was tried in Colorado. Clarke wrote:

"The community impact here is even greater than that present in McVeigh, given that the bombings occurred at the Boston Marathon on the day thousands of Bostonians and others from the region gathered to celebrate the runners, the Red Sox, and Patriots Day, the indelible fear that friends and family could have been killed or injured, the trauma experienced by those in the region for four more days while the police sought the perpetrators, and the hundreds of thousands of Boston area residents who sheltered in place during the climactic final day of the search."

The defense team said their polling last month found that 58 percent of respoondents in Boston said they believe Tsarnaev is "definitely guilty." That dropped to 52 percent in Springfield, 48 percent in Manhattan and 37 percent in Washington.

In Boston, 37 percent said Tsarnaev deserves the death penalty if he is convicted, compared to 35 percent in Springfield and less than 30 percent in Manhattan and Washington.

Alan Dershowitz, a longtime Harvard Law School professor and expert on defense law, said he believes trying to move the trial to Washington was a mistake.

"They're not going to get D.C. It's out of the question," Dershowitz told the Boston Herald. "It's an odd place, but they're trying to pick their venue. No judge will give them a venue that is pro-defense. I think it's a tactical blunder to ask for D.C."

Dershowitz said he believes Boston jurors, while they might be more likely to convict Tsarnaev, would also be more likely to spare him the death penalty. The last execution in the state was in 1947.

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