After two months of jury selection and 17 days of moving and often disturbing testimony from 95 witnesses, it took a Boston jury just over 11 hours to convict Dhzhokhar Tsarnaev on all charges relating to the 2013 Boston Marathon bombing.
Tsarnaev (21) was found guilty of all 30 counts against him, including conspiracy to use a weapon of mass destruction, for his role in the attack that left three people dead and 264 injured nearly two years ago. Seventeen charges carried the death penalty, and the same jury will now decide whether to sentence Tsarnaev to death or life in prison without possibility of parole.
The jury officially began their deliberation Tuesday morning following closing statements from the prosecution, the defence, and a brief prosecution rebuttal. Assistant US attorney Aloke Chakravarty gave an emotional closing argument which aimed to ram home the horror of Tsarnaev’s crimes.
As the clerk slowly read out the charges and the verdict, Tsarnaev, dressed in a charcoal jacket and blue-grey sweater, remained impassive.
He fiddled with his hands, hugged himself, scratched his hair and beard, but did not appear to react as the verdicts were read. Briefly, at the end, he placed his head in his hands, before returning them to his pockets.
Next to him as the judge called for recess, his attorney Judy Clarke appeared to offer encouragement.
Bill and Denise Richard, the parents of Martin Richard, the eight-year-old victim of the bomb placed by Tsarnaev outside the Forum restaurant, were in court to hear the verdict read out. They have attended almost every day.
Following the closing statements from the opposing lawyers on Monday, judge George O’Toole addressed the jury to underscore the weight of their responsibility. “Your oath as jurors requires you to determine the facts of the case without fear or favour based solely on the evidence,” he said.
Having finally dispensed with the question of guilt, the trial will now move quickly to the second phase, known as the “sentencing phase”.
In the sentencing phase, the same jury – seven women and five men – will hear more witness testimony to help them decide whether or not to sentence Tsarnaev to death. If they vote for death – a vote which must be unanimous – Tsarnaev will be transferred to a federal facility in Terra Haute, Indiana, and eventually executed, though a lengthy appeals process is likely.
The question of Tsarnaev’s fate is likely to cause much soul-searching in Massachusetts, a state which ruled capital punishment unconstitutional three decades ago.
The process of finding a jury took as long as it did partly because of the necessity of finding 12 jurors and six alternates who would be “death-qualified”, which is to say, neither implacably opposed to the death penalty nor wholeheartedly in favour.
Judy Clarke, defending Tsarnaev, has striven to portray him throughout the trial as an ordinary kid, who tweeted song lyrics and talked about girls on Facebook, but was in thrall to his radicalised elder brother Tamerlan.
Tamerlan, who was killed following a shootout with police in the days following the attack, was ever-present in the defence’s tactics.
In her closing argument, Clarke said that there was “no excuse” for her client’s actions, calling them a “senseless act.” But she also aimed to mitigate Tsarnaev’s involvement in the bombing through reference to Tamerlan, whom she named 93 times in her closing argument.
William Weinreb, for the prosecution, gave short shrift to Clarke’s approach in a rebuttal that may well presage the second phase of the trial. “He’s entitled to try to pin the blame on somebody else if that’s what he wants to do,” he said. “But you should see that for what it is. It’s an attempt to sidestep responsibility; not to take responsibility. It’s up to you to hold the defendant fully responsible. You should find him guilty because he is guilty.”
The second phase of the trial is set to start next week, according to court officials. – Guardian