A federal appeals court ruled late Friday that the trial of the Dzhokhar Tsarnaev, who is suspected of being involved in a 2013 bomb attack, will continue in Massachusetts, denying his request to change the location of the trial. The attack, carried out during the 2013 Boston Marathon, had claimed the lives of three people and injured 260 others.
A three-judge panel of the 1st U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals ruled 2-1 against Tsarnaev’s legal team, which had claimed that because Boston’s residents were prejudiced against Tsarnaev, it could lead to an unfair jury whose decision may be tainted. The court stated that the defense could not produce enough reasons in favor of moving the trial out of Boston.
"Any high-profile case will receive significant media attention," the panel said, according to The Los Angeles Times. "It is no surprise that people in general, and especially the well-informed, will be aware of it. Knowledge, however, does not equate to disqualifying prejudice. Distinguishing between the two is at the heart of the jury selection process."
The judges also reportedly wrote in the 80-page opinion: "We are unable to conclude that it is clear and indisputable that the petitioner cannot receive a fair trial by an impartial jury in the Eastern Division of Massachusetts."
However, District Judge Juan Torruella supported the defense's arguments, saying that "almost the entire pool of potential jurors has been compromised" by the bombing.
"I understand what this trial means for the community: an opportunity for closure, a sense of justice," he said, according to Reuters. "Rather than convicting Tsarnaev and possibly sentencing him to death based on trial-by-media and raw emotion, we must put our emotions aside and proceed in a rational manner."
The last phase of jury selection for the trial is scheduled to take place on Tuesday, and opening statements are expected to be made on Wednesday. If convicted, Tsarnaev could face the death penalty. His brother Tamerlan Tsarnaev, who was also involved in constructing and planting the bomb, was killed in 2013 during a shootout with police officers.