Change of venue for Tsarnaev? Good luck with that

So lawyers for accused Boston Marathon bomber Dzhokhar Tsarnaev want to move his trial to someplace where he can a get a fairer trial.

How about the moon?

Actually, the next venue west of the Joe Moakley Courthouse on the South Boston waterfront is located in beautiful downtown Worcester.


You remember Worcester. That’s where those flag-waving losers harassed the poor undertaker who was merely trying to bury Dzhokhar Tsarnaev’s older brother, Tamerlan, who no doubt will be portrayed by Dzhokhar’s lawyers as some Al Qaeda-
loving Svengali, casting a hypnotic spell over his guileless little brother, a high school wrestling star who liked to smoke the occasional joint.

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The only other federal jurisdiction rests in the great city of Springfield. Now, as partial as I am to the idea of spending languid evenings at Max’s Tavern on the banks of the mighty Connecticut after covering the trial inside Moshe Safdie’s magnificent courthouse, it’s a nonstarter.

That said, it would be kind of cool that a self-admitted Islamic terrorist would be forced to attend his trial at a courthouse where the Israeli-born architect insisted on saving a copper beech, a linden, and a black walnut, ranging in age from 200 to 500 years old. I like the irony of chronicling such indifference to human life in a building whose very existence is a monument to human humility before nature.

I guess Tsarnaev’s lawyers are hoping a carload of potential jurors waving “Indict Dick Cheney” banners will drive down I-91 from Northampton to save their client from the death penalty. But I’ve been to the Big E, not to mention the Kielbasa Festival in Chicopee, and I’d say more people in Western Massachusetts would be in favor of Mr. Tsarnaev meeting the sharp end of a needle.

Tsarnaev’s lawyers could argue it is necessary to move the whole kit and kaboodle out of state. That’s what the lawyers for Oklahoma City bomber Timothy McVeigh did, moving his trial from Oklahoma to Colorado. Of course, as he lay strapped to a gurney at the federal penitentiary in Terre Haute, Ind., feeling the burn of the sodium thiopental in his right leg, I assume the mass-murdering Mr. McVeigh must have considered his lawyers’ ability to move the trial to be something of a Pyrrhic victory.


While I share the sentiments of Tsarnaev’s lawyers that he should be spared the death penalty, I don’t share their view that he cannot get a fair trial here because of the communal trauma caused by the bombings. Or by the overwhelming, prejudicial publicity, or the visceral sympathy for those killed — Martin Richard, Lu Lingzi, and Krystle Campbell — and the hundreds injured, many with life-altering wounds.

The reality is that the biggest concentration of those opposed to the death penalty resides right here in Eastern Massachusetts, where the pool of prospective jurors in Tsarnaev’s trial resides. If his lawyers think he can get a better shot elsewhere, I can’t wait to hear their arguments.

As for seating an impartial jury, if jurors in Boston can sift through evidence in the case of Whitey Bulger, a legendary gangster about whose crimes generations of Bostonians knew by osmosis and by heart, they should be objective when it comes to an obscure, would-be jihadist from Cambridge.

Dan Linskey, the recently retired chief of the Boston Police Department, faced an existential moment when he came across the mortally wounded Tamerlan Tsarnaev, moments after his little brother ran him over in the chaos of the Watertown confrontation after the bombing.

In many places in the world, someone in Linskey’s position would have put a bullet in him. Instead, he called for an ambulance.


“That’s the difference between us and them,” Linskey said.

Here’s the other difference: Just because Dzhokhar Tsarnaev could allegedly show such callous disregard for human life does not mean the rest of us will show callous disregard for his human rights.

Kevin Cullen is a Globe columnist. He can be reached at