Marathon bomber's lawyers ask for new trial outside of Boston

Defense lawyers for Boston Marathon bomber Dzhokhar Tsarnaev said in a court filing Monday that he deserves a new trial in a different location where jurors will be impartial.

Jane Flavell Collins via AP/File
Boston Marathon bomber Dzhokhar Tsarnaev, right, stands before US District Judge George O'Toole Jr. as he addresses the court during his sentencing, in federal court in Boston, in this June 24, 2015 courtroom sketch. He is now detained in the highest-security prison in the US Penitentiary in Florence, Colo., after being sentenced to death in June.

Defense lawyers for Boston Marathon bomber Dzhokhar Tsarnaev said in a court filing Monday that he deserves a new trial in a different location where jurors will be impartial.

They argued that, because of widespread outrage in Boston after the deadly 2013 attack, jurors in the city couldn't be objective before finding him guilty and recommending a death sentence. As evidence of "continuous and unrelenting publicity," they provided a long list of public events held in honor of the victims, including a new city holiday and several races.

Widespread media coverage featured stories about survivors, including one "powerfully emotional" moment during the 2015 marathon when amputee Rebekah Gregory ran the last 3.5 miles (5.6 kilometers) on a prosthetic leg before falling to her knees at the finish line, crying, the filing said.

Banners posted around the city urged solidarity. Even on social media, the lawyers wrote, jurors were inundated with posts from relatives and friends.

"Put simply, prejudicial media coverage, events and environment saturated greater Boston, including the social networks of actual trial jurors, and made it an improper venue for the trial of this case," the filing said.

The filing concludes that the atmosphere tainted Tsarnaev's constitutional right to an impartial trial. It asks that his guilty verdict be overturned and that the court provide a new trial to determine his guilt and his penalty.

Federal prosecutors on Monday evening didn't immediately return a phone message or an email seeking comment on the request for a new trial.

Tsarnaev was convicted of 30 federal charges in the double bombing at the marathon's finish line. Three people died, and more than 260 were injured. A federal judge, following the jury's recommendation, sentenced Tsarnaev to death.

During his trial, his lawyers admitted that he and his brother, Tamerlan Tsarnaev, carried out the bombings but argued his brother was the mastermind and he should not receive the death penalty. His brother died after a shootout with police.

The defense tried unsuccessfully during the trial to have it moved elsewhere, warning that too many people had personal ties to the marathon or the attack and that anguish in Boston was too powerful to provide a fair trial.

The Christian Science Monitor wrote in April,

recent poll from public radio station WBUR – conducted during the second week of the trial – found that the majority of Bostonians in the region would still prefer Tsarnaev be sentenced to life in prison instead of death, a result consistent with most polls taken before the trial began.

Austin Shupe, a student at Berklee College of Music, believes that the death penalty would be “too easy” for Tsarnaev.

“Life in solitary confinement is pretty much the worst thing you can do to a person,” adds Mr. Shupe.

Others disagree, however.

“When it comes to the death penalty I feel in certain cases that would be appropriate, and in this case I do think it’s appropriate,” says Trevis Catron, who works for a moving company in Boston.

“I feel sorry for the kid, he was young, he was probably influenced by his brother,” Mr. Catron adds, “but at the end of the day you have your own brain.”

You've read  of  free articles. Subscribe to continue.

Dear Reader,

About a year ago, I happened upon this statement about the Monitor in the Harvard Business Review – under the charming heading of “do things that don’t interest you”:

“Many things that end up” being meaningful, writes social scientist Joseph Grenny, “have come from conference workshops, articles, or online videos that began as a chore and ended with an insight. My work in Kenya, for example, was heavily influenced by a Christian Science Monitor article I had forced myself to read 10 years earlier. Sometimes, we call things ‘boring’ simply because they lie outside the box we are currently in.”

If you were to come up with a punchline to a joke about the Monitor, that would probably be it. We’re seen as being global, fair, insightful, and perhaps a bit too earnest. We’re the bran muffin of journalism.

But you know what? We change lives. And I’m going to argue that we change lives precisely because we force open that too-small box that most human beings think they live in.

The Monitor is a peculiar little publication that’s hard for the world to figure out. We’re run by a church, but we’re not only for church members and we’re not about converting people. We’re known as being fair even as the world becomes as polarized as at any time since the newspaper’s founding in 1908.

We have a mission beyond circulation, we want to bridge divides. We’re about kicking down the door of thought everywhere and saying, “You are bigger and more capable than you realize. And we can prove it.”

If you’re looking for bran muffin journalism, you can subscribe to the Monitor for $15. You’ll get the Monitor Weekly magazine, the Monitor Daily email, and unlimited access to CSMonitor.com.