Boston Bombing: Tsarnaev's Lawyers Argue to Relocate Trial

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Image: Courtroom sketch shows Boston Marathon bombing suspect Tsarnaev during the jury selection process in his trial at the federal courthouse in Boston
A courtroom sketch shows Boston Marathon bombing suspect Dzhokhar Tsarnaev (C) during the jury selection process in his trial at the federal courthouse in Boston, Massachusetts January 15, 2015. Tsarnaev, who appeared in court on Thursday wearing a sport jacket and collared shirt, more formally dressed than in last week's appearances, and had trimmed his hair, is also charged with fatally shooting a university police officer three days after the bombing. He has pleaded not guilty. REUTERS/Jane Flavell Collins (UNITED STATES - Tags: CRIME LAW)Jane Flavell Collins / Reuters

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BOSTON — Alleged Boston Marathon bomber Dzhokhar Tsarnaev's defense lawyers argued Thursday that the trial's jury pool has been irrevocably tainted with a presumption of prejudice and therefore the proceedings should be moved out of town.

“The attack was viewed as an attack on the marathon and on the city itself,” one of the lawyers, Judith Mizner, told a three-judge panel of the U.S. First Circuit Court of Appeals. “The heart of the Sixth Amendment is the right to an impartial jury. That’s a right chiseled in this building.”

Jury selection continued late this morning in the same U.S. District Court building. Mizner disclosed during arguments that Judge George O’Toole had provisionally qualified 61 jurors as of Wednesday. The court plans to qualify 70 jurors before the start of peremptory challenges, which will whittle the number down to 12 jurors and six alternates.

O'Toole denied the defense's petition for a venue change three times before the appeals court agreed to consider the latest request. The panel, which previously ruled 2-1 against moving the trial, is expected to issue a written decision.

Three people were killed and more than 260 people injured when bombs exploded near the finish line of the marathon on April 15, 2013. The defense has argued in court filings that 68 percent of the 1,373 jurors summoned for this case already believe Tsarnaev is guilty. He faces the death penalty on 17 counts of a 30-count indictment.

Appeals Court Judge Juan Torruella read answers from juror questionnaires stating the defendant should be executed publicly by bombing at the marathon finish line and that the trial was a waste of time. Assistant U.S. Attorney William Weinreb called those responses “selective and misleading.” Weinreb argued that prospective jurors have been honest in questioning about whether they could set aside opinions and deliberate impartially on the evidence.

Mitzner said pre-trial publicity, coupled with personal connections and allegiances, as well as stories about victims struggling to recover, show Boston “is not an appropriate place to try this case.” She also ripped O’Toole, calling his questioning during the jury voir dire process “sporadic and erratic — not focused and consistent.” Weinreb countered that O’Toole had taken reasonable positions “based on the facts and the law.” He said he didn’t believe the defense has shown or can show that there is a presumption of prejudice.

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