Boston bomber was an unrepentant killer, prosecutor tells court

Jury urged to sentence Dzhokhar Tsarnaev to death over killings at 2013 marathon

A sketch of assistant US attorney Nadine Pellegrini speaking during the sentencing of Dzhokhar Tsarnaev, who isseen gesturing in a photograph. Photograph: Jane Collins/Reuters

A sketch of assistant US attorney Nadine Pellegrini speaking during the sentencing of Dzhokhar Tsarnaev, who isseen gesturing in a photograph. Photograph: Jane Collins/Reuters


Convicted Boston marathon bomber Dzhokhar Tsarnaev was painted as an “unrepentant killer” by a prosecutor as a jury was shown a photograph of the student giving the finger to a security camera in a courthouse jail cell three months after the deadly blasts.

Urging the jury to sentence Tsarnaev (21) to death over the killing of three people near the finish line of the 2013 marathon and the murder of a Massachusetts policeman four days later, prosecutor Nadine Pellegrini described the killings as “deliberate, intentional and cruel”.

Tsarnaev was convicted on April 8th of all 30 counts against him relating to the April 2013 blasts that injured more than 260 people on Boston’s Boylston Street; 17 of the counts carry the death penalty.

Ms Pellegrini opened the sentencing phase, during which a jury must decide whether the ethnic Chechen and naturalised American citizen should die over the worst terror attacks on US soil since 9/11 or face life in prison without the possibility of parole.

In a hard-hitting speech, she told the jury that they know from the guilt phase of the trial how restaurant manager Krystle Campbell (29), Chinese exchange student Lingzi Lu (23), schoolboy Martin Richard (8), and Massachusetts Institute of Technology police officer Sean Collier (27) died.

Now they needed to know how they lived, she said.

Four victims

All their families wanted is to have them back one more time, she said. Martin’s family just wanted to see him again “decked out in green beads one more time for one more St Patrick’s Day,” she told the jury, referring to the family’s strong Irish connections.

“Dzhokhar Tsarnaev murdered each one of them in a way that they had time to feel pain,” said Ms Pellegrini. “They had time to feel scared and frightened. But they had no time to say goodbye. That is the very essence of terror.”

Tsarnaev was “simply callous and indifferent to human life”. He chose the famed event and “twisted the marathon into something cruel and ugly for his own purposes” and “a political statement,” she said.

The prosecution case against Tsarnaev centred on his motives seeking retribution for the killing of Muslims in US wars. His lawyers claimed that he had been manipulated by his radicalised older brother.

In a move pre-empting the defence’s expected case in the sentencing phase, to start on Monday, Ms Pellegrini said that Tsarnaev’s actions could not be blamed on his brother or a dysfunctional family. Millions of people have problems, she said. “Who among them murders a child with a bomb?” she asked.

Disregard brother

“The origin of the lineage of terrorism doesn’t matter,” she said. “What matters is his beliefs in terror, his actions.”

At the climax of her statement, the prosecutor showed the jury the photo of Tsarnaev extending a middle finger in a gesture of angry defiance taken from a video surveillance camera in a courthouse cell when he was arraigned on the bombing charges in July 2013.

“This is Dzhokhar Tsarnaev – unconcerned, unrepentent, unchanged,” she said.

Tsarnaev, dressed in a black jacket with his characteristic long, tussled hair and chin- strap beard, remained, as usual in this long-running case, unmoved throughout the hearing.

The jury heard victim impact testimony from some of the injured, including Celeste Corcoran, a spectator who lost both legs in the blasts. A video recorded immediately after the blasts was played as Gillian Reny, who almost lost a leg in the bombings, testified with the sound of screams and a wailing child filing the courtroom.

The hearing continues.