Boston bomber’s lawyer urges jury to spare his life
Counsel for Dzhokhar Tsarnaev says there is no punishment that would be equal to crime
File photograph of Dzhokhar Tsarnaev, who was convicted of 30 federal charges relating to the twin bombings at the Boston Marathon finishing line in 2013. Tsarnaev’s lawyers have urged the jury in the case not to grant him the death penalty. Photograph: FBI handout/Reuters
Boston Marathon bomber Dzhokhar Tsarnaev’s lawyers have urged the jury in his trial to spare his life, portraying him as “a good kid” who was led down the path to terrorism by his fanatical older brother.
David Bruck delivered the defence’s opening statement in the penalty phase of Tsarnaev’s trial, saying there is no punishment he can get that would be equal to the suffering of the victims.
“There is no evening the scales,” Mr Bruck said. “There is no point in trying to hurt him as he hurt because it can’t be done.”
Tsarnaev (21), was convicted of 30 federal charges relating to the twin bombings that killed three spectators and wounded more than 260 other people near the marathon’s finish line on April 15th, 2013.
He was also convicted of killing an MIT police officer during a getaway attempt.
This stage of the trial will determine whether he is executed or spends the rest of his life in prison.
Mr Bruck urged the jury to sentence Tsarnaev to life in prison without the possibility of ever being released.
“His legal case will be over for good, and no martyrdom, just years and years of punishment.
“All the while, society is protected.”
Mr Bruck focused heavily on Tsarnaev’s deceased older brother, Tamerlan, portraying him as a volatile figure who led the bombing plot. He said Tamerlan was “consumed by jihad” and had “power” over an admiring Dzhokhar.
He contrasted Tamerlan with Dzhokhar, saying Tamerlan was loud and aggressive, got into fights, failed at everything he did and never held a steady job, while Dzhokhar was a good student in school, was loved by his teachers, had many friends and never got in trouble.
“He was a good kid,” the lawyer said. Mr Bruck said Tsarnaev started going downhill in college, when his parents divorced and returned to Russia, and he was left with Tamerlan as the de facto head of the family.
Mr Bruck said the defence will not claim that Tamerlan forced Tsarnaev to participate in the attack. However, the lawyer said that “if Tamerlan hadn’t led the way”, the bombing would not have taken place.
Mr Bruck said that Tamerlan went to Russia for six months in 2012 to join jihadi fighters and returned to the US even more radicalised. The lawyer said that Russian relatives will describe how “fanatical” he seemed during that visit.
The lawyer said Dzhokhar grew up amid turmoil and instability. He was born in the former Soviet republic of Kyrgyzstan, then moved from place to place with his parents and siblings before settling in the US in 2002, when he was eight.
Mr Bruck showed the jury photos of the Supermax prison in Colorado where Tsarnaev would probably serve his sentence if he were given life instead of the death penalty.
The lawyer said that his existence would be austere, with most of his time spent in solitary confinement and his only exercise would be for brief periods outside in a small cage.
Dzhokhar Tsarnaev was a 19-year-old college student at the time of the bombing.
His brother Tamalan (26), was killed days after the attack when he was shot by police and run over by Dzhokhar during a chaotic getaway attempt.
Prosecutors have portrayed Tsarnaev as an unrepentant killer who gave “the finger” to the security camera in his prison cell three months after his arrest.
Mr Bruck downplayed the gesture, saying Tsarnaev was “acting like an immature 19-year-old”.