Boston Marathon bombing trial: Lawyers for Dzhokhar Tsarnaev ask for delay in wake of Paris terror attacks

Defence fears 'extraordinary prejudice' resulting from last week's atrocities

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The Independent US

Lawyers for Dzhokhar Tsarnaev, the 21-year-old accused of setting off the bombs that killed three people and injured more than 260 at the Boston Marathon in April 2013, are asking for the jury selection process to be delayed by at least a month because of the terror attacks in Paris.

Mr Tsarnaev’s lawyers filed the motion on Tuesday arguing that the delay would allow time for “the extraordinary prejudice” resulting from last week’s events in Paris and potential comparisons to the 2013 marathon bombing. 

As the US prepares for what may the most closely watched federal death penalty case since that of Timothy McVeigh, who was convicted of the 1995 Oklahoma City bombing, the jury selection process, which started in earnest last week, has proved challenging. Extensive media coverage, smartphone footage and thousands of athletes, spectators and others who were personally affected by the bombings means the selection criteria must be forensic. Last week a pool of 1,200 potential jurors reported to the court where the judge and lawyers  began whittling them down to just a dozen, as well as several back-up jurors.

Mr Tsarnaev's lawyers have tried repeatedly to delay the start of the trial and move its location. But their requests have so far been rejected. The judge will now consider this latest application, which comes as the hunt for suspects in the Paris shootings continue into another week.

His lawyers are expected to argue that Mr Tsarnaev was pressured into taking part in the attack by his older brother, who embraced radical Islam in the years before his death. Prosecutors allege that Mr Tsarnaev was a fanatic in his own right and downloaded copies of al-Qaeda's online Inspire magazine, which included instructions on how to make a pipe bomb.

Mr Tsarnaev is being defended by Judy Clarke, a specialist in high-profile death penalty cases. She previously defended the Unabomber, a recluse who engaged in a two-decade bombing campaign across the US, and a man who in 2011 shot Congresswoman Gabby Giffords and killed six other people.

In both cases, Ms Clarke brokered deals in which her clients pleaded guilty in exchange for the US government dropping its demand for the death sentence. A similar arrangement is still possible in the Tsarnaev case but so far no agreement has been reached.