By Scott Malone
BOSTON (Reuters) - Federal prosecutors on Tuesday asked an appellate court to allow the accused Boston Marathon bomber's trial to go forward in the city where the 2013 attack took place, saying that defense attorneys had not made a case for moving it.
Their argument came in a court filing two days before a three-member panel of the First Circuit Court of Appeals are to set to hear arguments by lawyers for Dzhokhar Tsarnaev, who contend that his trial should not be held in the city that was the site of the largest mass-casualty attack on U.S. soil since Sept. 11, 2001.
Defense lawyers have repeatedly argued that the large number of Boston-area residents with a personal connection to the bombing that killed three people and injured 264 would make it all but impossible to seat an impartial jury. U.S. District Judge George O'Toole has three times rejected their request.
Jury selection began early last month when 1,350 people were summoned to the waterfront courthouse to fill out questionnaires about their connection to the case and close to 200 have since been called in for in-person questioning.
"As empanelment proceeds, it becomes ever clearer that Tsarnaev's claims that a fair and impartial jury cannot be empanelled are unsupportable," the prosecutors wrote, noting that as of Friday, the judge had found 54 people who would be eligible to sit on the jury.
"The relatively few jurors who believed that Tsarnaev was guilty and who could not set aside that opinion did not hesitate to say so, making it easy to filter them out," the prosecutors wrote.
Defense attorneys are also expected to file arguments on the motion to move the trial on Tuesday.
Tsarnaev, 21, is also charged with shooting dead a police officer as he prepared to flee the city three days after the April 15, 2013, bombing.
(Reporting by Scott Malone; Editing by Mohammad Zargham)