BOSTON (USA TODAY) – Attorneys for Boston Marathon bombing suspect Dzhokhar Tsarnaev are expected to ask a judge to move their client's November trial.
Judge George A. O'Toole Jr. last week denied a motion that would have given attorneys Miriam Conrad and Judith Clarke until August to make their case for changing venues. At issue is whether Tsarnaev can receive a fair trial in the city where two bombs went off near the Marathon finish line on April 15, 2013, leaving three dead and more than 260 wounded.
In a 30-count indictment, Tsarnaev is charged with bombing a public place and using a weapon of mass destruction resulting in death. He is being held without bail and could face the death penalty if convicted. He is not expected to appear in court with his attorneys today.
Tsarnaev's lawyers did not request a change of venue for the trial during a 40-minute status conference Wednesday morning. Tsarnaev's attorneys have until 5 p.m. to file such a motion.
The hearing instead addressed a series of procedural matters, including the setting of dates for discovery in the run up to Tsarnaev's trial, which is set for November. The defense objected to conditions under which Tsarnaev's attorneys are permitted to meet with him.
"There have been problems," said David Bruck, one of Tsarnaev's attorneys. "We have not been able to accomplish the work as we think it needs to be accomplished."
When O'Toole sought further details, Bruck explained.
"It's a matter of having an FBI agent taking notes, sitting and listening to everything that's said," Bruck said.
O'Toole accepted a prosecution proposal to amend monitoring procedures at the facility where Tsarnaev is being held. Under the provision, an FBI agent monitoring conversations would not communicate with any Assistant U.S. Attorney who is involved in the case or is based in the District of Massachusetts.
O'Toole also criticized what he termed an "unduly prejudicial" motion from the government. In it, the Chechen-born Tsarnaev's status as a naturalized citizen is highlighted in conjunction with questions about his loyalty to the United States.
"To draw a distinction between naturalized and natural born citizens is highly inappropriate," O'Toole said.
He went on to reprimand the prosecution for what the defense is calling "leaks" or interviews with media. Members of the legal team have not conducted interviews, but retired FBI Special Agent in Charge Rick Deloria is among those who have.
O'Toole has seen the media interviews, he said, "and I was not very happy about them. I thought they were completely unnecessary."
Questions of venue came up last month in three related obstruction of justice cases. Judge Douglas Woodlock said at the time that media coverage in Boston hasn't made it impossible to impanel local juries that will be fair to three friends of Tsarnaev who allegedly interfered with bombing investigations.
"I don't find it to be the kind of press coverage that on the whole creates presumptions," Woodlock said.
He added, however, that "the proof of the pudding is in the selection of the jury." If impartial jurors can't be found in Boston, then the upcoming trials of Azamat Tazhayakov, Dias Kadyrbayev and Robel Phillipos could be moved to Springfield, Mass.
Tsarnaev's trial is scheduled to begin Nov. 3.