Boston bombing suspect Dzhokhar Tsarnaev has asked a judge to move his trial to Washington.
In a motion filed late Wednesday, Tsarnaev’s lawyers said they found “an overwhelming presumption of guilt” for the defendant in Massachusetts when they conducted a preliminary survey in May.
The attorneys also argued that Boston residents have largely prejudged how Tsarnaev should be punished.
“An extraordinarily high number of individuals in the potential jury pool who either attended or participated in the 2013 Boston Marathon, or personally know someone who did,” the motion from Tsarnaev's attorneys said.
The attorneys cited the trial for Oklahoma City bomber Timothy McVeigh, which was moved to Denver. They argued the Boston bombing had a much greater impact on the Boston community than McVeigh's actions had on Oklahoma City.
Tsarnaev’s lawyers said the Boston bombing had a much more profound effect on the Boston community than in Oklahoma City because thousands of Bostonians and others from the region went through a traumatic experience, fearing their friends and family were injured or killed.
“If a change of venue was warranted in McVeigh, it is even more compelled by the facts presented here,” the motion said.
The 1995 Oklahoma City bombing killed 168 people, and the trial was moved to Colorado because McVeigh’s lawyers argued extensive publicity “demonized” their client
The attorneys said they had conducted surveys in Boston, Springfield, Mass., New York, N.Y., and Washington, D.C.
“Boston ranked as the most prejudiced on all of the critical measures: case awareness, case knowledge, pre-judgment,” the lawyers said.
About 58 percent of Boston residents said Tsarnaev is “definitely guilty” and 37 percent of them said he deserves the death penalty, which the Justice Department is seeking in the case.
In Manhattan, about 48 percent said he’s “definitely guilty” and about 28 percent said he deserves the death penalty.
Residents in Washington were the least likely to say Tsarnaev was guilty and deserved the death penalty, with 37 percent saying he’s “definitely guilty” and 19 percent saying he should be put to death.
As a result, the attorneys said the trial should be moved to Washington, D.C.
They argue that under the Sixth Amendment, their client has the right to trial “by an impartial jury of the state and district wherein the crime shall have been committed.”
Tsarnaev pleaded not guilty last year to 30 charges after his involvement in the bombing at the Boston Marathon in April 2013 that left three people dead and more than 270 wounded.
It’s unclear whether the judge will grant a change in venue. For now, his trial date is set in Boston for Nov. 3.
—This report was updated at 1:03 p.m.