Three friends of accused Boston Marathon bomber Dzhokhar Tsarnaev can get a fair trial in Boston and there is no need to move the proceedings out of state, a federal judge ruled on Tuesday.
Judge Douglas Woodlock denied a motion by defense attorneys to move the trial of Dias Kadyrbayev, Azamat Tazhayakov and Robel Phillipos out of state. The lawyers had argued that the defendants would not be able to get a fair trial because an impartial jury would be near impossible to find with all of the media coverage about the Marathon bombings.
“The submissions on the motion seem to be premature,” Woodlock said, adding that he believed a basis to move the trial had yet to be demonstrated. “A properly vetted jury takes its job very seriously and provides … a fair and impartial trial.”
Woodlock said he felt a fair and impartial jury could be found. But he also said he favored the “Bulger model” of jury selection used last year in the trial of mobster James “Whitey” Bulger. During that trial, about 400 potential jurors were screened over several days before finding a suitable panel.
Just in case, Woodlock said he would have the federal court in Springfield on standby in case a proper jury could not be found.
Later on Tuesday, a motion to suppress statements allegedly made by the three friends was expected to get underway. Tsarnaev’s friends may speak during the hearings for the first time since they pleaded not guilty.
Kadyrbayev and Tazhayakov, both 20 and nationals of Kazakhstan, pleaded not guilty to charges of obstruction of justice and conspiracy to obstruct justice. Phillipos, who has been released on bail, has pleaded not guilty to lying to authorities. The group came to know Tsarnaev while attending UMass Dartmouth together in 2011. Prosecutors accused them of going to Tsarnaev’s dorm room in the days after the bombing and removing items including a backpack, manipulated fireworks and a laptop.
Also on Tuesday, Woodlock denied efforts by the defense to dismiss some of the charges against them. He also agreed to separate the trials of the defendants. Tazhayakov’s trial will begin June 30, Kadyrbayev’s trial will start Sept. 8, and Phillipos will go to trial on Sept. 29. The trials are expected to last two weeks.
Follow Michael Naughton on Twitter @metrobosmike.