Tsarnaev should be executed for 'senseless, inexcusable US attack'
Judge warns jurors they must keep an open mind in verdict
Lawyers have started laying out the arguments they hope will convince a jury to sentence Dzhokhar Tsarnaev to death for his part in the Boston Marathon bombing.
The 21-year-old was convicted earlier this month of carrying out the 2013 terror attack alongside his older brother, who died in a shoot-out with police days after the bombing.
The jury was told yesterday that the attack was "inexcusable" and "senseless". Tsarnaev, a 21-year-old ethnic Chechen, was found guilty on April 8 of killing three people and injuring 264 at the marathon finish line and fatally shooting a police officer as he and his older brother, Tamerlan, prepared to flee three days later.
"Unbearable. Indescribable. Inexcusable. And senseless. All of those words have been used to describe the murders committed by Dzhokhar Tsarnaev," said Nadine Pellegrini, an Assistant US Attorney, in the prosecution's opening statement of the sentencing phase on Tuesday. "The deaths committed by Dzhokhar Tsarnaev were deliberate, intentional and cruel." Citing al-Qa'ida materials found on his laptop and a note in which he suggested the April 15, 2013 bombing was an act of retribution for US military campaigns in Muslim-dominated countries, federal prosecutors have sought to paint Tsarnaev as a violent extremist.
But defence attorneys have countered that 26-year-old Tamerlan, who died following a gunfight with police hours after the officer's slaying, was the driving force behind the attacks, with Dzhokhar acting in a secondary role out of a sense of sibling loyalty.
District Judge George O'Toole Jr said the jury must weigh aggravating factors proved by prosecutors against mitigating factors shown by Tsarnaev's lawyers to decide whether Tsarnaev should be sentenced to life in prison or be executed for the 2013 deadly attack.
Tsarnaev's lawyers opted to delay their opening statement until next week, when they are to begin calling their own witnesses. The judge reminded jurors they each promised to keep an open mind on what punishment Tsarnaev should receive.
"It is imperative that you keep that promise," O'Toole said. Judge O'Toole had blocked the defence from introducing much evidence about Tamerlan in the trial's first phase, but legal experts said Tsarnaev's attorneys will likely have much freer rein in the sentencing phase. The sentencing phase of the trial is expected to last about four weeks. When it ends, the same jury that convicted Tsarnaev will decide between the death sentence or life in prison without parole.
The idea of putting Tsarnaev to death is controversial in Boston. Massachusetts state law does not allow for capital punishment, which is an option in this case because Tsarnaev was tried in federal court.
More Boston-area residents oppose putting Tsarnaev to death than support it, according to opinion polls. Over the past week, several people whose family members were killed, or survivors who lost limbs in the attack, have spoken out against the death penalty for Tsarnaev.
They argued that a deal in which Tsarnaev was sentenced to life in prison without possibility of parole in exchange for giving up his appeal rights would spare victims, their families and the city of Boston from sitting through several more weeks of emotionally draining testimony and possibly years of appeals. (© Daily Telegraph, London)