The federal trial of alleged “Boston Bomber” Dzokhar Tsarnaev is only starting to take shape. The first order of business for the defense is to have the trial moved to another city. Defense lawyers state that local media have made statements overtly comparing Tsarnaev to foreign terrorist threats such as ISIS, turning any potential juror against him.
Bias on any side is harmful
The defense argues that such reports could hurt Tsarnaev’s chances of a fair trial, and proposes to delay the January 5 start of the trial, and move the proceedings to either Washington or New York. What these lawyers are asking for is known as change of venue, which is a common tactic when a defendant believes that the local population is biased against his favor.
Should the defense claims regarding Tsarnaev’s treatment in the local news is found to be true, Denver law firm, Miller & Steiert, P.C. explained that there might be a strong possibility the court will grant the change of venue request.
The recent events wherein protesters came out in support of the defendant, however, could prove to be the undoing of this proposal. If the populace could produce people opposite the popular side of an issue, it is not a stretch to find people who are on the fence.
The law defers to the decision of the judge if a specific location is untenable to conduct a trial that attracts one-sided attention. A change of venue, or the request for one, is a common occurrence in high profile cases, and there have been more than a few controversies in decisions regarding them.
Oklahoma and Boston
One of the cases the defense uses for reference in the change of venue is the case Timothy McVeigh, also known as the Oklahoma City bomber. The court granted McVeigh a change of venue from Oklahoma City to Denver, a decision formed along the same line as Tsarnaev’s request, which generates controversy to this day.
The defense argues that the McVeigh case sets a precedent, as both cases involve actual injury on an entire population, and can produce the same feeling of bias against the defendant. The prosecution, however, asserts that the McVeigh “precedent” is a false comparison, because the change in venue was due to damage to the courthouse, not because of population bias against the defendant.
The change in venue is nothing more than a difference in location, as it has never given a defendant any significant advantage concerning the case. The most the defendants can make out of it is extra time to build their case while lawyers look for a replacement court.