Prosecutors in the Boston Marathon bombing trial urged a federal appeals court Friday not to move the trial to another area. They were responding to a renewed request from Dzhokhar Tsarnaev's defense team, which on Tuesday asked the First Circuit Court of Appeals for an order directing the judge to grant a change of venue. "An extraordinary 85 percent of the prospective jurors either believe Mr. Tsarnaev is guilty, or have some self-identified 'connection' to the case, or both," the defense said, based on its analysis of questionnaires filled out by the potential jurors.
In their reply, government lawyers say that figure is misleading. Jurors, who have little experience with trials or criminal law, "may interpret the word 'guilty' in a non-legal, commonsense fashion, to mean something more akin to 'present' at the events or 'involved' in them," they wrote. "Those types of opinions are easily set aside once a juror is instructed that neither an arrest nor an indictment is evidence of guilt."
The prosecutors said the process of voir dire, in which jurors are questioned individually, is a proven method of rooting out bias, and they suggested the process is well on the way to a conclusion. So far, their filing said, 137 potential jurors have been questioned over 11 days, working toward the goal of qualifying 70 — a number that will be reduced to 12 jurors and six alternates once lawyers exhaust their allowed challenges.
The number qualified so far is redacted from the court filing, but a court official has said a jury may be seated by the end of next week.