The attorneys defending accused Boston Marathon bomber Dzhokhar Tsarnaev have requested for the fourth time that his trial be moved out of the city, citing a survey of prospective jurors that indicated a high level of potential bias. From the New York Times:
Of the 1,373 prospective jurors who filled out screening questionnaires this month, the defense said, 68 percent said they already believed that Mr. Tsarnaev was guilty.
“This kid is from another country and kills innocent people!” one person wrote.
The defense also said that 69 percent of the potential jurors had said they had a personal connection to the case.
Jury selection is already underway, and taking longer than expected; opening statements were planned Jan. 26 but will be pushed back to an as-yet-undetermined date.
The evidence of Tsarnaev’s guilt appears substantial, but if he’s convicted his jury will also have to weigh a variety of “mitigating and aggravating factors” to decide whether he should be executed or sentenced to life in prison. This presents a further complication—many Massachusetts residents oppose the death penalty, and individuals who say they’re not willing to vote for capital punishment won’t be seated on the jury. A September 2013 poll found that only 33 percent of Boston residents said Tsarnaev should be executed if convicted.
Tsarnaev is also accused of murder in the shooting death of a Massachusetts Institute of Technology police officer.
Correction, March 19, 2015: This post originally misspelled Dzhokhar Tsarnaev’s name and misstated that none of the federal charges against him related to the death of MIT police officer Sean Collier.