Boston: The trial of Boston Marathon bombing suspect Dzhokhar Tsarnaev can stay in Massachusetts, a federal appeals court ruled. A three-judge panel of the 1st U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals said any high-profile case would receive significant media attention but that knowledge of such case “does not equate to disqualifying prejudice.” “Distinguishing between the two is at the heart of the jury selection process,” the panel wrote. Tsarnaev’s lawyers argued that intense media coverage of the case and the large number of people personally affected by the deadly attack made it impossible for him to find a fair and impartial jury in Massachusetts. Prosecutors insisted that Judge George O’Toole Jr.’s
individual questioning of prospective jurors has successfully weeded out people with strong opinions on Tsarnaev’s guilt. In its 2-1 ruling, the appeals court found that the defense did not meet the standards necessary to have the trial moved. It said it was not clear and indisputable that pretrial publicity required a change of venue, and that the ongoing jury selection process did not suggest pervasive prejudice. Further more, the court ruled, the defense did not demonstrate irreparable harm if the trial was not moved.
Tsarnaev’s lawyers had asked O’Toole three times to move the trial, but he refused, saying bias among prospective jurors could be rooted out through careful questioning about their thoughts on Tsarnaev and the death penalty. A panel of 12 jurors and six alternates will be chosen to hear the case. The same jury will decide whether Tsarnaev lives or dies. If he is convicted, the only possible punishments are life in prison without pariole or the death penalty. Only jurors who said they are willing to give meaningful consideration to both punishments can be seated on the jury. Three people were killed and more than 260 were injured when twin bombs exploded near the marathon finish line on April 15, 2013.