Marathon bomber Dzhokhar Tsarnaev’s appeal against his death sentence is likely to focus on the judge’s refusal to move the trial out of Boston and the prosecution’s barrage of emotional evidence from more than a dozen victims of the attack.
While the case will probably take years to wend its way through the courts, legal observers say there are some obvious grounds for challenging the punishment handed out by the jury to the 21-year-old former student for the 2013 bombing that killed three people and wounded more than 260 at the finish line of the Boston Marathon.
Tsarnaev’s lawyers fought to get the trial moved, warning that too many people had personal connections to the marathon or the tragedy and that the anguish in Boston was just too powerful to find an impartial jury. But US District Judge George O’Toole rejected all four change-of-venue motions and a federal appeal court backed him by 2-1.
“The venue thing is obviously strong. Anybody who would sit on the jury in Boston has been personally affected by the event in question,” said Eric Freedman, a death penalty specialist and professor of constitutional law at Hofstra Law School.
Others say the judge had valid reasons to keep the trial in Boston and scrupulously tried to weed out potential jurors who were biased.