THE only surviving suspect in the Boston Marathon bombing appeared in court yesterday for the beginning of a trial the US government hopes will end with him being sentenced to death.
Nearly two years after a pair of pressure cooker bombs ripped through crowds at the marathon finish line and killed three people, Dzhokhar Tsarnaev (21) sat impassively before the jurors who will decide whether he lives or dies.
Tsarnaev was 19 when he and his elder brother allegedly carried out the highest profile terror attack on the American mainland since September 11.
The April 2013 bombing led to a five-day manhunt across Massachusetts by teams of heavily-armed police and FBI agents.
Tsarnaev's brother Tamerlan was killed during a shoot-out with officers and the younger suspect was found lying badly wounded in a boat where he allegedly scrawled messages justifying terrorism.
Yesterday, he appeared in a federal court two miles from the site of the bombing, wearing a black turtleneck but no handcuffs.
His hair was long and dishevelled and he had a thin patchy beard that he occasionally ran his hand through as he slouched besides his lawyers.
He sat with his hands clasped as a judge began the process of trying to find a jury of 12 men and women from the Boston area who can deliver an impartial verdict despite the enormous media coverage of the case.
A pool of 1,200 potential jurors will report to the court this week where the judge and lawyers will begin whittling them down to just a dozen, as well as several back-up jurors.
The jury's first task will be to decide if Tsarnaev is guilty of the 30 federal charges against him, including using a weapon of mass destruction and murdering a university police officer several days after the bombing.
If he is convicted, the jury will then be asked to decide whether or not he should be put to death by lethal injection. People who say they oppose the death penalty in all circumstances will not be allowed on the jury.
At the heart of the trial, which is expected to last four months, is the question of how a young Chechen refugee turned against the country that granted him asylum and citizenship. Tsarnaev came to the US from Kyrgyzstan at the age of eight and is remembered by friends as an intelligent and easy-going young man who seemed well-integrated in the multicultural Boston area.
He sold marijuana but had no criminal record and was not known for strident views on either politics or religion.
His lawyers will argue that he was pressured into taking part in the attack by his older brother, who embraced radical Islam in the years before his death. (© Daily Telegraph, London)