Defense lawyers for accused marathon bomber Dzhokhar Tsarnaev urged a federal appeals court Thursday to move the case out of Boston, saying local residents are too connected to the case to give their client a fair trial.
Government prosecutors, however, told the three-judge panel of the 1st Circuit Court of Appeals that the jury selection process begun Jan. 5 is working, and that Boston-area people can set aside any biases.
The two explosions at the finish line of the April 2013 marathon killed three people. Tsarnaev, 21, has pleaded not guilty.
The appellate judges did not immediately rule on the matter of moving the case out of Boston, or an alternate defense request that they order trial Judge George A. O’Toole Jr. to stop jury selection and give the defense team a hearing on a change of venue.
The appellate judges likely will issue an order later Thursday or on Friday.
The three judges earlier voted, without holding a hearing, against moving the case out of Boston. The lone dissenter, Judge Juan Torruella, at Thursday’s hearing quoted excerpts from the juror questionnaires.
"Why waste time on this guy?” the judge quoted one prospective juror as saying, according to Associated Press. “You know he's guilty."
After the hearing, O’Toole resumed individual juror questioning at the same downtown Boston courthouse.
Government prosecutor William Weinreb said O’Toole has prequalified a jury pool of 61 people, with 12 jurors and six alternates needed for the trial.