FEDS: Don't Move Boston Marathon Bombing Trial
By: JOSH GERSTEIN
Federal prosecutors fighting the effort by alleged Boston Marathon bomber Dzhokhar Tsarnaev's defense team to move his trial out of Boston made an interesting argument in a new court filing Tuesday: The media's coverage of Tsarnaev has served to improve his reputation.
"Far from 'demonizing' Tsarnaev, the local press has
largely humanized him, portraying him not as a member of a violent or terrorist group but as a popular and successful student and the beloved captain of his high school wrestling team," prosecutors wrote in the new filing (posted here). "Teachers, classmates, friends, and neighbors have almost uniformly been quoted as saying that they were baffled by Tsarnaev’s alleged role in the Marathon bombings."
Defense lawyers asked that Tsarnaev's trial on murder, bombing and other charges be held outside of Massachusetts, preferably in Washington, D.C. The defense attorneys cite widespread prejudicial publicity about the bombings, as well as the widespread impact on the community.
However, prosecutors say there are about 5 million people in eastern Massachusetts, so finding a jury of 12 people should be possible. The prosecution also argues that polling evidence suggests fewer people may favor the death penalty for Tsarnaev than in the typical case.
Prosecutors also suggest that changes of venue may no longer be an effective way of dealing with intense publicity in high-profile cases. "Even if this case is moved, the press will surely and understandably follow," they write.
Massachusetts state law does not provide for the death penalty. However, Attorney General Eric Holder authorized federal prosecutors to seek capital punishment in the federal court case.
The pair of bombings at the marathon finish line in April 2013 left three people dead and scores injured. Authorities say Tsarnaev and his brother Tamerlan also killed a university police officer during their crime spree. Tamerlan was killed during an altercation and shootout with police a few days after the bombings. Dzhokhar Tsarnaev was gravely wounded but survived.