In order to ensure a fair trial unaffected by the intense publicity and hostility surrounding the Boston Marathon bombing case, the attorneys for Dzhokhar Tsarnaev’s three friends are pushing for the venue of the trials to be moved outside of Massachusetts.
The three friends of Tsarnaev, Dias Kadyrbayev, Azamat Tazhayakov and Robel Phillipos, are being charged with obstruction of justice and conspiracy. Shortly after the bombings, when pictures of the suspects were released, the three men allegedly went over to Tsarnaev’s dorm and took a backpack full of fireworks and Tsarnaev’s laptop to hide them from the police. Additionally, they allegedly lied to the police regarding their knowledge of the crime.
Tazhayakov and Phillipos’ attorneys had already previously filed motions to change the venue of the trials. On Tuesday, Kadyrbayev’s attorney followed their lead.
David Rossman, law professor at Boston University, said he is doubtful the attorneys will be successful in their motions to change the venue.
“It is very difficult to convince a federal judge to change venue,” he said. “In the case of the three friends of the defendant responsible for the bombing, it will be almost impossible.”
Rossman went on to explain that since the alleged bomber will be tried in Boston, there would be no reason that his alleged accomplices would not be tried here also.
“By all accounts Tsarnaev is going to be tried here,” he said. “To move his trial at this date in the process would force the court to redo many steps that have already been taken. If he can be tried in Boston, they certainly can be. Jury selection will take a lot of time and effort, but there have been many other notorious cases where careful jury selection results in a panel able to put aside their preconceptions.”
All three defendants have pleaded not guilty to the charges of obstructing justice and hindering the investigation. If proven guilty, they are facing up to 20 years in prison and a $250,000 fine.
In August 2013, The Daily Free Press previously reported that Kadyrbayev’s lawyer, Robert Stahl, said his client is only guilty of befriending a person who spoke the same language as him in a statement.
“He and his family hope that the tragedy and sheer violence of the bombing will not blind justice, that the American justice system will prevail and that his innocence will be proven at trial,” he stated. “When authorities first approached him, he fully cooperated. … The FBI recovered all of the items because of [Kadyrbayev’s] complete cooperation with their investigation.”
Many residents said the attorneys probably have a very slim chance of changing the trial’s venue.
“Most of the hostility is toward [Tsarnaev] himself,” said Antionette Stokes, 29, of Boston. “If they are able to find an unbiased jury for him, they will definitely be able to find unbiased people for their trials also.”
Jose Garcia, 59, of Dorchester, said if the defendants did something so severe that they are incapable of finding an impartial jury, then they must face those consequences.
“Sometimes it’s incredible the way criminals push for justice when they’re the ones that did something horrible in the first place,” he said. “If that’s the case, then they have to face the fact that their jury may be biased. But I don’t think these kids did anything that bad, so they should still be able to find a fair jury and have a fair trial.”
Justin Keith, 35, of Back Bay, said their trial should be treated just like every other one. Although they deserve an impartial trial, going to great lengths to get them into courts outside of Massachusetts is unnecessary.
“That would kind of be going too far and giving them special treatment,” he said. “I still believe the trial will be fair, that’s the reason we have the court system we do.”