A federal judge has denied a request to change the trial venue for three friends of the alleged Boston Marathon bomber, who are accused of hampering the investigation into the finish-line blasts that killed three people and injured 264 others on April 15, 2013.
US District Judge Douglas Woodlock ruled that the three men will be tried separately, but he dismissed their requests for out-of-state trials, maintaining that fair and impartial juries can be found in Massachusetts.
"A fair and vetted jury will be fair and impartial and will take seriously their responsibilities and can be chosen even in a community where an extraordinary event took place," he said Tuesday, according to Reuters.
Judge Woodluck added that he would consider moving their trials to Springfield, Mass., 80 miles west of Boston. He has not yet ruled on motions to strike the word “terrorism” from the charges against them and to suppress some of their early statements to police.
Kazakhstan nationals Dias Kadyrbayev and Azamat Tazhayakov are accused of tampering with evidence by removing a laptop and a backpack filled with fireworks from alleged bomber Dzhokhar Tsarnaev’s dorm room at the University of Massachusetts-Dartmouth in the days after the attacks. Both men are being held on immigration violations since their arrests shortly after the attacks.
The third defendant, Robel Phillipos, a US citizen and resident of Cambridge, Mass., faces charges of lying to investigators and has been under house arrest.
Mr. Tazhayakov is slated to stand trial on June 30, Mr. Kadyrbayev on Sept. 8, and Mr. Phillipos on Sept. 29.
The three men were college friends of Mr. Tsarnaev, one of two brothers accused of planting pressure-cooker bombs at the Boston Marathon finish line. Tsarnaev’s brother, Tamerlan, was killed as a result of a firefight with police in the Boston suburb of Watertown four days after the attacks.
The surviving brother faces 30 federal charges, including using a weapon of mass destruction, and a state murder charge for the death of Massachusetts Institute of Technology security officer Sean Collier, who was shot and killed in the hours before the Watertown firefight.
Tsarnaev’s trial is scheduled to begin in November. Federal prosecutors say they will seek the death penalty. The next status conference hearing is scheduled for June 18, when Tsarnaev's defense attorneys are expected to ask for a change of venue for the trial, according to ABC News.
Material from The Associated Press and Reuters was used in this report.