NEW YORK – Boston Marathon bombing suspect Dzhokhar Tsarnaev is making a last-ditch bid to move his terrorism trial to another city, arguing that local news media are turning potential jurors against him with stories comparing him to Islamic State militants.
The Sunni Muslim insurgent group, also known as ISIS, has made headlines worldwide for its mass executions and beheadings in parts of Iraq and Syria. Reports connecting Tsarnaev, 21, to the group hurt his chance at a fair trial in Boston, defense lawyers said in a court filing Monday.
The trial, set to start Jan. 5 in Boston federal court, should be delayed and moved to New York or Washington, the attorneys have argued. The proceeding could last four months, meaning it would overlap with the two-year anniversary of the marathon bombing, which killed three spectators and wounded 260 others in April 2013.
“The media periodically tie those events and Mr. Tsarnaev to new perceived threats such as ISIS,” defense lawyer William Fick said in the filing, without naming a specific news outlet. “This media saturation can only be expected to intensify as we approach the start of trial and, then, the anniversary of the marathon bombing.”
An earlier request to move the trial was denied. New media reports, including the references to Islamic State, justify a second request, the defense argued.
Tsarnaev, a naturalized U.S. citizen from the Dagestan republic of Russia, faces a possible death sentence if he’s convicted. Prosecutors claim he was inspired by al-Qaida and motivated by the killing of Muslim civilians in U.S. military actions.
Islamic State, an al-Qaida breakaway group, has seized areas of Syria and northern Iraq and declared a caliphate there after ousting government forces from Mosul, Iraq’s second-biggest city, in June. The U.S. has assembled a coalition of European and Arab allies to destroy the group.
The case is U.S. v. Tsarnaev, 13-cr-10200, U.S. District Court, District of Massachusetts (Boston).