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For the third time, lawyers for alleged Boston Marathon bomber Dzhokhar Tsarnaev are asking a judge to move the long-awaited trial out of the area because they don't think there will be an impartial jury.
Members of the defense team are basing their renewed request for a change of venue on answers to the questionnaires filled out by nearly 1,400 prospective jurors. About 85 percent wrote that they already believe Tsarnaev is guilty, even before evidence has been presented, or that they have a self-identified "connection" with the case — or both.
Questioning began a week ago in Boston federal court as Judge George O'Toole seeks to seat a panel of 12 jurors and six alternates. The defense lawyers' motion says that based on the questionnaires, there is already a "presumed prejudice ... and the existing record precludes a fair trial in Boston." Tsarnaev, 21, is accused of helping to carry out 2013's deadly Boston Marathon bombing with his older brother, Tamerlan Tsarnaev, who was killed in a police shootout.
Twice before, O'Toole has denied similar requests from defense lawyers, referring to a recent Supreme Court decision that restricted the conditions under which a change of venue can be granted.
But the defense lawyers say that this trial, which has attracted national publicity, is an exception. "If this case does not warrant a change of venue, the entire body of law on venue as it relates to the Constitutional rights to due process and a fair trial will be left a hollow shell," the new filing claims.
Earlier Thursday, a court official said jury selection is going more slowly than expected, so opening statements would not begin Monday as first scheduled.
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