Saturday 16 November 2019

Jury begins weighing up if Boston bomber lives or dies

A courtroom sketch shows accused Boston Marathon bomber Dzhokhar Tsarnaev during closing arguments in his trial at the federal courthouse in Boston, Massachusetts, on Monday (REUTERS/Jane Flavell Collins)
A courtroom sketch shows accused Boston Marathon bomber Dzhokhar Tsarnaev during closing arguments in his trial at the federal courthouse in Boston, Massachusetts, on Monday (REUTERS/Jane Flavell Collins)

Raf Sanchez

Jurors in the Boston Marathon bombing trial listened to closing arguments yesterday before beginning to decide whether Dzhokhar Tsarnaev should be executed for his role in the 2013 terrorist attack.

After a month of graphic and emotional testimony in a Boston courtroom, federal prosecutors will urge the jury to convict Tsarnaev of terror offences which carry the death penalty.

The 21-year-old’s lawyers will repeat an argument they have made throughout the trial: that Tsarnaev was a pawn of his older brother Tamerlan, who died in a shoot-out with police days after the attack.


Tsarnaev’s defence team has already admitted he was involved in the attack and there is little doubt that the Boston jury will find him guilty.

How long it will take them to reach a verdict is anyone’s guess.

If they do convict, the trial will move to a second phase where the 10 women and eight men of the jury will be asked to decide whether Tsarnaev should be put to death by lethal injection.

The second phase will involve more testimony from witnesses called by both sides.

The US government will present Tsarnaev as a hardened radical in his own right, who had al-Qa’ida magazines on his computer and showed no remorse in the days after the bombing.

His lawyers made little effort to counter the prosecution during the trial’s first phase.

They cross-examined only a few of the 92 witnesses called by the government and put up just four witnesses of their own.

But in the second phase of the trial they are likely to mount a far more vigorous case as they argue against executing a young man who was just 19 at the time of the bombing. They will cast him as in thrall of his dominant older brother, who masterminded the terror attack.

Tsarnaev did not take the stand during the trial and rarely looked at the witnesses, some of whom walked into court on prosthetic legs after their own were torn off by the pressure cooker bombs planted at the marathon finish line.

Even if the jury does eventually decide that Tsarnaev should be put to death, it is likely to be years before a sentence is carried out.

He will have multiple opportunities to appeal against the sentence.

The execution would likely be carried out at a federal government facility in Indiana. Timothy McVeigh, the man who responsible for the 1995 Oklahoma City bombing, was executed at the same facility in 2001.

The jury heard that Tsarnaev targeted men, women and children because he wanted to terrorise the United States on a day when the eyes of the world would be on Boston, a federal prosecutor said.

“He chose a day when there would be civilians on the sidewalks.

“He and his brother targeted those civilians, men, women and children, because he wanted to make a point.

“He wanted to terrorise this country.

“He wanted to punish America for what it was doing to his people,” assistant US attorney Aloke Chakravarty said.

“So that’s what he did.”

Mr Chakravarty showed the jury a photo of Tsarnaev standing just feet behind eight-year-old victim Martin Richard, his family, and other children who were standing on a metal barricade to watch the runners cross the finish line.


He said Tsarnaev placed his bomb right there, the second bomb that would explode that day.

“These children weren’t innocent to him. They were American... Of all the places that he could have placed the bomb, he placed it right here.”

Chakravarty also played a gruesome video of the aftermath of the first bombing, which showed gravely injured people scattered on the footpath and huge pools of blood.

Three people were killed and 264 others wounded in the blasts at the city’s marathon – the worst in the United States since the September 11, 2001 attacks on the World Trade Center and the Pentagon.

Prosecutors summoned 92 witnesses to the stand in recent weeks, building a case against Tsarnaev.

Their final witness was medical examiner Henry Nields, who recounted in graphic detail the injuries suffered by the youngest victim, eight-year-old Martin Richard, who was torn apart by one of the pressure-cooker bombs. (© Daily Telegraph, London)

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