Federal prosecutors opposed a request Tuesday from accused Boston Marathon bomber Dzhokhar Tsarnaev to move his highly anticipated trial from the city to Washington, D.C.
“The court should reject Tsarnaev’s contention that pretrial prejudice will prevent him from obtaining a fair trial in the Eastern Division of Massachusetts, a large and diverse area with a population of over 5 million,” prosecutors wrote in a legal filing. “Tsarnaev argues the court must accept that contention without first questioning even one potential juror about his or her ability to be fair and impartial.”
Prosecutors assailed poll results that Tsarnaev’s lawyers had cited in their bid to move the high-profile trial. His attorneys said in a June filing that a survey they had conducted showed “an overwhelming presumption of guilt in the District of Massachusetts” and a preference for the death penalty.
“The polling results on which Tsarnaev relies are an unreliable indicator of actual jury bias, and they certainly do not warrant a presumption that 12 fair jurors cannot be found in a population of 5 million,” prosecutors wrote in their filing Tuesday. “The court is free to ignore those poll results, and in this instance, it should.”
Tsarnaev, 20, has pleaded not guilty to a slew of charges that could bring the death penalty in his alleged role in the devastating April 15, 2013, blasts. He is being held without bail in a federal prison in Ayer.
The explosions near the finish line of the race killed three people, including an 8-year-old Dorchester boy, and wounded more than 260 others. Tsarnaev and his late brother, who died in a confrontation with police days after the bombings, are also accused of killing an MIT police officer.
Prosecutors wrote Tuesday that they are seeking a fair proceeding in the matter.
“Like Tsarnaev, the government seeks a fair trial in a venue where the court can seat 12 impartial jurors,” prosecutors wrote. “The government is confident, however, that screening questionnaires and voir dire [jury selection] will be sufficient to achieve that goal.”
US District Court Judge George A. O’Toole Jr. has yet to rule on the controversial defense motion for a change of venue.
Tsarnaev is currently scheduled to stand trial in US court in Boston in November.