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Tsarnaev to seek change of venue for federal trial

Lawyers for accused Boston Marathon bomber Dzhokhar Tsarnaev plan to request that his federal trial, currently slated for US District Court in Boston, be moved to another jurisdiction.

Tsarnaev’s attorneys disclosed their intention in court records Wednesday, and they asked that a June 18 deadline for filing their motion for a change of venue be extended to Aug. 3.

“The defense has now completed sufficient preliminary research to determine that a change of venue motion should be filed,” his lawyers wrote. The lawyers believe they need additional time for expert analysis on “venue research and media surrounding this case.”

The filing did not specify the defense’s preferred location for the highly anticipated November trial, nor did it say why the lawyers are seeking to move the proceedings. They could ask to move the trial out of Massachusetts or to another court in the Commonwealth.


In addition to Boston, federal district courts are located in Springfield and Worcester.

Miriam Conrad, the top federal public defender in Massachusetts and a member of Tsarnaev’s legal team, declined to comment beyond the filing.

Prosecutors had not filed a response by Wednesday evening, and a spokeswoman for US Attorney Carmen M. Ortiz had no comment.

“The government will file its response with the court,” Ortiz’s spokeswoman, Christina DiIorio-Sterling, wrote in e-mail.

Tsarnaev, 20, faces several charges that could bring the death penalty for his alleged role in April 15, 2013, bombings, which killed three people, including an 8-year-old boy from Dorchester, and wounded more than 260.

Gerard T. Leone Jr., a former state and federal prosecutor who helped secure a guilty plea for Richard Reid, the so-called shoe bomber, said that in one respect, moving Tsarnaev’s trial out of the Commonwealth may not help him.

“Massachusetts continuously polls against the death penalty,” said Leone, now a partner at Nixon Peabody, “so wouldn’t you want to draw a jury from a state that polls in that way?”


He added that Eastern Massachusetts, where jurors will be drawn if the case stays in Boston, generally has a more liberal demographic than the western part of the state.

At the same time, Leone said, moving the trial out of Boston could have some advantages for the defense. “In a general sense, this was an extremely emotional and highly significant matter that’s particularly tied to Boston,” he said, “so conventional wisdom might say that you want it anywhere other than in that backyard.”

Tsarnaev’s change of venue motion, if filed, would follow a similar effort by three men who are facing lesser charges of obstructing the investigation and lying to authorities.

In April, a lawyer for Azamat Tazhayakov, one of the suspects, asked that his trial be moved outside Massachusetts, arguing in court papers that “there exists within this district among a significant percentage of the residents . . . so great a prejudice against the defendant that he cannot obtain a fair and impartial trial.”

The others, Dias Kadyrbayev and Robel Phillipos, later joined the motion, which was denied last month.

Moving a federal trial that could bring the death penalty, which Tsarnaev faces, is not without precedent. In 1996, the trial of Timothy McVeigh, the Oklahoma City bomber who set off an explosion that killed more than 160 people, was moved to Colorado.

McVeigh was convicted in 1997, and he was executed in 2001.


Travis Andersen can be reached at Follow him on Twitter @TAGlobe.