Boston bomber given death sentence for attack on marathon
A jury sentenced Dzhokhar Tsarnaev to death yesterday for the Boston Marathon bombing, sweeping aside pleas that he was just a "kid" who fell under the influence of his fanatical older brother.
Tsarnaev (21) stood with his hands folded, his head slightly bowed, upon learning his fate, decided after 14 hours of deliberations over three days. It was the most closely watched terrorism trial in the US since the Oklahoma City bombing case two decades ago.
The decision sets the stage for what could be that nation's first execution of a terrorist in the post-9/11 era, though the case is likely to go through years of appeals. The execution would be carried out by lethal injection.
The 12-member federal jury had to be unanimous for Tsarnaev to get the death penalty. Otherwise, he would have automatically received a sentence of life in prison without parole.
Three people were killed and more than 260 wounded when two pressure-cooker bombs packed with shrapnel exploded near the finish line on April 15, 2013.
The former college student was convicted last month of all 30 federal charges against him, including use of a weapon of mass destruction and the killing of an MIT police officer during the Tsarnaev brothers' getaway attempt. Seventeen of those charges carried the possibility of the death penalty.
Tsarnaev's chief lawyer, death penalty specialist Judy Clarke, admitted at the very start of the trial that he participated in the bombings, bluntly telling the jury: "It was him."
But the defence argued that Dzhokhar was an impressionable 19-year-old who was led astray by his volatile and domineering 26-year-old brother, Tamerlan, who was portrayed as the mastermind of the plot to punish the US for its wars in Muslim countries.
Prosecutors depicted Dzhokhar Tsarnaev as an equal partner in the attack, saying he was so cold-hearted he planted a bomb on the pavement behind a group of children, killing an eight-year-old boy.
To drive home their point, prosecutors cited the message he scrawled in the dry-docked boat where he was captured: "Stop killing our innocent people and we will stop." And they opened their case in the penalty phase with a startling photo of him giving the finger to a security camera in his jail cell months after his arrest.
"This is Dzhokhar Tsarnaev -unconcerned, unrepentant and unchanged," prosecutor Nadine Pellegrin said.
The jurors also heard grisly and heartbreaking testimony from numerous bombing survivors who described seeing their legs blown off or watching someone next to them die.
Killed in the bombing were Lingzi Lu, a 23-year-old Boston University graduate student from China; Krystle Campbell, a 29-year-old restaurant manager from Medford; and eight-year-old Martin Richard, who had gone to watch the marathon with his family. Massachusetts Institute of Technology police officer Sean Collier was shot to death in his cruiser days later. Seventeen people lost legs in the bombings.
Tamerlan Tsarnaev died days after the bombing when he was shot by police and run over by Dzhokhar during a chaotic getaway attempt.
The speed with which the jury reached a decision surprised some, given that the panel had to fill out a detailed, 24-page worksheet in which the jurors tallied up the factors for and against the death penalty.
The possible aggravating factors cited by the prosecution included the cruelty of the crime, the killing of a child, the amount of carnage inflicted, and lack of remorse. US district Judge George O'Toole Junior will formally impose the sentence at a later date during a hearing in which bombing victims will be allowed to speak.
Tsarnaev will also be given the opportunity to address the court.
Reactions to the verdict
Sydney Corcoran, who was injured in the bombing and whose mother lost both her legs. "My mother and I think that now he will go away and we will be able to move on. Justice. In his own words, 'an eye for an eye,'" she posted on Twitter.
Richard Donohue, a transit police officer who was badly wounded during the manhunt that followed the bombing: "The verdict, undoubtedly a difficult decision for the jury, gives me relief and closure as well as the ability to keep moving forward."
US Attorney General Loretta Lynch: "We know all too well that no verdict can heal the souls of those who lost loved ones, nor the minds and bodies of those who suffered life-changing injuries from this cowardly attack. But the ultimate penalty is a fitting punishment for this horrific crime and we hope that the completion of this prosecution will bring some measure of closure to the victims and their families."
Carmen Ortiz, the top federal prosecutor in Boston: "The defendant claimed to be acting on behalf of all Muslims. This was not a religious crime. It was a political crime designed to intimidate and coerce the United States."
Boston Mayor Martin Walsh: "I hope this verdict provides a small amount of closure to the survivors, families, and all impacted by the violent and tragic events surrounding the 2013 Boston Marathon. We will forever remember and honour those who lost their lives and were affected by those senseless acts of violence. Today, more than ever, we know that Boston is a city of hope, strength and resilience, that can overcome any challenge."
Attorney General for National Security John Carlin: "Tsarnaev is an unrepentant terrorist held to account by a justice system that provides due process of law even to those who commit the most horrific offences."
Massachusetts Governor Charlie Baker: "I hope this represents some kind of closure for all of those who were affected by this tragedy. I have always been and continue to be amazingly impressed by the ability of the people of this community to pull together around issues like this."