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Boston Marathon bomber's appeal to overturn death sentence begins Thursday

Posted at 7:25 AM, Dec 12, 2019

The surviving Boston Marathon bomber who's been convicted and sentenced to death for his role in the terror plot that killed four, injured hundreds and left the city under siege during a five-day manhunt in April 2013, is hoping his legal team's appeal will give him his life back.

Lawyers representing Dzhokhar Tsarnaev, 26, will make opening statements on Thursday morning to the 1st US Circuit Court of Appeals in hopes of overturning his death sentence , arguing that the bombing co-conspirator did not get a fair trial because Boston was the scene of the mayhem. They will argue the jury pool was tainted because they were directly affected by the bombing.

The team is also expected to argue that jurors lied to hide their bias. In a 206-page motion, Tsarnaev's attorneys highlighted a juror who referred to Tsarnaev as a "piece of garbage" in a Twitter post and lied about having to shelter in place during the manhunt, and another who started a Facebook group to discuss the jury selection process.

"Fresh proceedings - in an unaffected community, before honest and unbiased jurors, who know that the bombings were [Dzhokar's] first violent crimes but not Tamerlan's - present a real prospect of a different outcome," according to the motion. "This verdict is unworthy of confidence and this Court should reverse."

Dzhokar was 19 years old when he and his brother, Tamerlan, who was 26 years old at the time, went to Boston's Boylston Street shortly before 3 p.m. on April 15, 2013, to carry out their plot .

Surveillance video showed the brothers carrying the pressure cooker bombs in backpacks and moving through the crowd near the marathon finish line in what federal prosecutors called a coordinated attack.

Tamerlan Tsarnaev set off the first bomb, a 6-quart pressure cooker that contained gunpowder, nails and BBs, prosecutors said. The bomb killed Krystle Campbell, a 29-year-old restaurant manager, and permanently injured several other people who lost their legs.

The second pressure cooker bomb, carried in by Dzhokhar Tsarnaev, went off 12 seconds later and killed two people -- Martin Richard, 8, and Lingzi Lu, 23, a graduate student from China.

The bombings sparked a manhunt for days that shut down the city. The brothers, while on the run, killed a Massachusetts Institute of Technology police officer, Sean Collier. After they stole an SUV, the two were chased by police.

Tamerlan Tsarnaev died in an explosive firefight with police in nearby Watertown. Dzhokhar Tsarnaev was arrested a day later and convicted for his role in the bombings. He was sentenced to death in 2015.

Prosecutors have argued previously that Tsarnaev's right to an impartial jury wasn't violated because his trial was held in Boston, highlighting that the heartbreaking testimony during the trial would not have outweighed any media consumption about the terror plot.

They also previously argued that the postings do not suggest that either of the jurors were dishonest during the jury selection process, or that they harbored biases against Tsarnaev that they were unable to set aside. The government said in a previous filing that the jurors swore under oath that they could put their views on Tsarnaev aside and weigh the evidence.

CNN reached out to prosecutors and Tsarnaev's defense attorney, but they declined to comment on the appeal.

Tsarnaev is currently being held in federal prison in Florence, Colorado, and is not expected to be in the courtroom when lawyers make their opening statements.

He was convicted in 2015 of all 30 counts he faced, which included all four deaths.