BOSTON (AP) — Federal prosecutors urged an appeals court Thursday to uphold Boston Marathon bomber Dzhokhar Tsarnaev’s convictions and death sentence, saying he got a fair trial in Boston despite the heavy publicity and widespread impact of the attack in the city.
Prosecutors told the 1st U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals to reject Tsarnaev’s claim that it was impossible for him to find an impartial jury in a city still traumatized by the bombings. The jury’s refusal to impose the death sentence on several counts shows that jurors were unbiased and carefully considered the evidence, U.S. Justice Department attorneys wrote.
“Exposure to high levels of pretrial publicity does not necessarily render a community unable to convene an impartial jury. Otherwise, no venue would be acceptable, and no trial possible, in the most nationally significant cases,” they said in a brief filed with the court.
Tsarnaev, now 25, was convicted in 2015 of all 30 charges against him, including conspiracy and use of a weapon of mass destruction.
His lawyers admitted at the beginning of his trial that he and his older brother set off the two bombs at the marathon finish line in April 2013 that killed three spectators. But they argued that Tsarnaev is less culpable than his brother, who they said was the mastermind behind the attack.
Tsarnaev is now behind bars at the supermax prison in Florence, Colorado. His brother, Tamerlan Tsarnaev, died in a gunbattle with police a few days after the bombing.
Tsarnaev’s lawyers said in their brief filed in December that the trial should never have been held in the city that was “traumatized by the bombings, ordered to shelter in place during the manhunt, saturated by prejudicial publicity and united in the Boston Strong movement.”
The defense is also challenging the judge’s refusal to allow the defense to introduce evidence tying Tamerlan to the killings of three people in the Boston suburb of Waltham in 2011. His lawyers say that evidence would have bolstered their case that Dzhokhar “would never have been on Boylston Street on Marathon Monday” if it wasn’t for his “cold-blooded killer” brother.
Tamerlan was never charged in the killings, which prosecutors have said remain under investigation.
Prosecutors said the Waltham killings’ evidence was not relevant to the marathon bombing and the judge was right to leave it out.
“Contrary to Tsarnaev’s claim, the Waltham evidence did not show that Tamerlan ‘influenced” or ‘intimidated’ him into committing the crimes in this case or that Tsarnaev played a lesser role in the bombing,” they wrote. “Rather, the evidence showed that Tsarnaev was independent, did not follow his brother’s strict religious lifestyle, and was a willing and eager participant in the marathon bombing.”