Boston Marathon trial set to start unless appellate court intervenes

The judge in the Boston Marathon bombing case Friday formally denied requests to delay the trial until September and move it outside of the city, reiterating a decision he announced earlier this week.

Defense lawyers for defendant Dzhokhar Tsarnaev said they are not prepared to go to trial because of the complexities of the case, the largest terror investigation since the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks. They have also argued that it will be impossible to impanel a local jury and conduct a “fair and impartial” trial at the downtown courthouse not far from the marathon route.

In two orders Friday, Judge George A. O'Toole Jr. sharply disagreed, saying 1,200 prospective jurors have already been summoned to the Boston courthouse for a selection process to begin Monday. He said that a last-minute delay would only unduly inconvenience them and the legal process as well.

"In other words, a short stay could lead to a long continuance of the commencement of trial," he said in his order.


Defense lawyers are awaiting a decision from the First Circuit Court of Appeals. They've asked the appeals court to order a trial delay and also either order the trial be moved out of Boston, or that Judge O'Toole hold a hearing to consider relocating it.

The appellate court was closed Friday. That court's officials said appellate judges were studying the matter. No decision had been announced by late Friday afternoon. The appellate judges could reach a decision any time, including Friday night and over the weekend.

Federal prosecutors told the appellate court they do not want a trial delay or a new site for the case to be heard.

"While there has been a great deal of media coverage in this case," the government said, Tsarnaev's lawyers have not proven that the "coverage has so inflamed and pervasively prejudiced the [jury] pool that a fair and impartial jury cannot be impaneled in this district of approximately 5 million people," they said.

The 21-year-old Tsarnaev, a Russian immigrant, has pleaded not guilty to death penalty charges in the twin blasts that killed three people and injured more than 260 others.