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Federal Prosecutors Oppose Moving Boston Marathon Bombing Trial

Image: Dzhokhar Tsarnaev holds up a bandaged at his arraignment in July 2013.

Dzhokhar Tsarnaev holds up a bandaged at his arraignment on Wednesday, July 10, 2013. The Boston Marathon bombing suspect plead not guilty to all charges on Wednesday. Art Lien file

Federal prosecutors urged a judge Tuesday not to move the Boston Marathon bombing trial out of Boston or Massachusetts.

Lawyers for accused bomber Dzhokhar Tsarnaev asked the judge two weeks ago to move the trial, saying a survey conducted in May showed "an overwhelming presumption of guilt" and a view that the death penalty should be imposed. They said a high number of people in the potential jury pool attended or participated in the Boston Marathon last year or know someone who did.

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In response, government lawyers said Tuesday that the defense has submitted only "unreliable, unexplained poll results" alleging juror bias. At the very least, prosecutors said, a potential jury pool should be examined by using questionnaires to see whether an impartial jury can be assembled. After all, they say, Boston is among the 25 largest U.S. cities, and the area from which jurors could be drawn is home to five million people.

Details from Boston bombing suspect’s note emerge 1:15

Tsarnaev's lawyers noted that the trial of Oklahoma City bomber Timothy McVeigh was moved from Oklahoma City to Denver. But the government says in that case, both the prosecution and the defense agreed it should have been moved, partly because the federal courthouse was damaged by the bombing. The question in that case, the government said, "was not whether to move the trial but only where to move it."

As for the pervasive news coverage of the bombing, the government said the Boston press had not demonized Tsarnaev but "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." He was depicted, the government lawyers said, as a "sympathetic young man who appeared on the cover of Rolling Stone."

The trial is scheduled for this fall.