Lawyers for Boston Marathon bombing suspect Dzhokhar Tsarnaev have asked a full federal appeals court to consider their request for a change of venue. A three-judge panel of the First U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals had already agreed to hear arguments on the matter next Thursday — but it rejected a defense request to stop jury selection in the meantime. Tsarnaev's lawyers say putting the process on hold "would promote public confidence in the fairness of the trial proceedings," which they say has been called into question.
The three-judge panel seemed to indicate a change of venue was a long shot. Two judges voted to deny the request to hit the pause button on jury selection. And on the venue issue, the panel's brief order noted that a hearing could be ordered based on the vote of a single judge.
It would appear the panel is 2-1 against both a stay and a change of venue, which is probably why the defense wants the issue before the entire appeals court, hoping for a different outcome. Jury selection has been called off for six days this winter because of heavy snow, and opening statements in the case are not expected until later next week at the earliest.
Jury selection in the case is about three-fourths done.
Judge George O'Toole disclosed in a court filing Friday that 54 potential jurors have been qualified to serve, out of a goal of 70. Once all 70 are qualified, lawyers for both sides will use their challenges to winnow the number down to 12 jurors and six alternates. The process has been delayed by frequent snowstorms.
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— Pete Williams and Tom Winter