December 31, 2014 / 7:25 PM / 4 years ago

Lawyers for accused Boston Marathon bomber lose delay bid

BOSTON (Reuters) - A federal judge on Wednesday denied defense requests to move and delay the start of the trial of Boston Marathon bombing suspect Dzhokhar Tsarnaev, whose lawyers say they are overwhelmed by hundreds of thousands of pages of documents.

Boston Marathon bombing suspect Dzhokhar Tsarnaev is shown in a courtroom sketch during a pre-trial hearing at the federal courthouse in Boston, Massachusetts December 18, 2014. REUTERS/Jane Collins

Jury selection in the Tsarnaev’s case is set to begin on Monday after U.S. District Judge George O’Toole rejected his lawyers’ request to push it back until September.

The trial will begin 18 months after Tsarnaev was indicted. His defense team says that brings the case to trial faster than 99 out of the 119 federal capital trials to get under way since 2004.

Tsarnaev, 21, who was a college student when he was arrested, will be tried on charges of killing three people and injuring more than 260 with two homemade bombs at the race’s crowded finish line on April 15, 2013, as well as fatally shooting a university police officer three days later.

His lawyers argued that the intense publicity around the case will prevent a local jury from being fair.

“The inescapable conclusion is that great local prejudice will prevent a fair trial by an impartial jury, in violation of Mr. Tsarnaev’s constitutional rights to due process of law and a fair trial,” Tsarnaev’s lawyers argued in a change of venue motion.

In a separate motion, the defense argued to postpone the trial until September, given the “extraordinary complexity and international dimensions of this case.”

“The defense continues to struggle to digest the terabytes and hundreds of thousands of pages of discovery produced in this case,” Tsarnaev’s attorneys said in the motion.

Earlier this month, the government provided a witness list of nearly 600 law enforcement personnel and 142 civilian witnesses, according to Tsarnaev’s lawyers.

Tsarnaev allegedly was joined in the bombing by his older brother, Tamerlan, who was killed in a shootout with police a few days after the bombing.

Tsarnaev faces the possibility of execution if convicted in a trial expected to run for three months.

“The sheer volume of material, alone, requires a continuance,” the defense team argued. “As a practical matter, it impossible for the defense to digest this information, much less attempt to pursue investigative leads it may suggest, in time to make effective use of it at trial.”

Reporting By Tim McLaughlin; Editing by Bill Trott

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