The Tsarnaev Trial
How the prosecutors argued for the death penalty

How the prosecutors argued for the death penalty

In the penalty phase of the Boston bombing trial, prosecutors and defense lawyers painted two very different pictures of Dzhokhar Tsarnaev. Of the 30 guilty counts for the 2013 attacks, 17 carried the possibility of the death penalty. In May, jurors unanimously decided that Tsarnaev deserved to die for his crimes. The Washington Post's Richard Johnson was in Boston to draw the final days of the trial.

Lawyers begin to depict Dzhokhar Tsarnaev

In her opening statement, prosecution lawyer Nadine Pellegrini recounted the horror Tsarnaev and his brother unleashed on Boston and the impact on the victims and their families. The defense tried to paint Tsarnaev as someone led astray by his older brother, and argued -- in an attempt to avoid the death penalty -- that life in prison would be a harsher sentence than death.
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David Bruck, Defense lawyer
Nadine Pellegrini, Prosecution lawyer

Prosecution presents the cost

The prosecution called witnesses who had lost family members in the blasts. Some jurors were brought to tears as a doctor described in graphic details the fatal injuries that 8-year-old Martin Richard suffered. Throughout the emotional testimonies, Tsarnaev sat unmoved, mostly staring straight ahead, sometimes relaxing with his head in his hand.
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William Campbell Jr., Krystal Campbell's father
Joseph Rogers, Stepfather of Officer Sean Collier
Andrew Collier, Brother of Officer Sean Collier

The wounded speak

Jurors also heard from several people who had lost limbs in the attacks. One amputee recalled the “bloodcurdling screams” after the bombing.
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Marc Fucarile, Amputee
Heather Abbott, Amputee

Gesture in video causes a stir

The prosecution showed a surveillance video from Tsarnaev's prison cell in which the former college student looks at the security camera and gives it the middle finger. Prosecutors contended that the video showed that Tsarnaev was “unconcerned, unrepentant and unchanged.” To rebut the video, the defense later called Deputy U.S. Marshal Kevin Michael Roche, who presented his take on the incident.
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Defense: Dzhokhar was following his brother's lead

Throughout the trial, the defense tried to expose Tamerlan’s leadership role in his relationship with his brother. Lawyers told jurors that Tsarnaev’s parents left the United States and placed him under the malevolent influence of his older brother, who masterminded the attacks. Tamerlan died in a shootout with police. The court heard an FBI interview with Magomed Dolakov, a Russian who was with the brothers three days before the bombings but has since disappeared. Prosecutors repeatedly told jurors that Tsarnaev was a willing participant in the bombings who knew exactly what he was doing.
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Michael Reynolds, Princeton professor of Eurasia studies
Judith Russell, Mother-in law of Tamerlan Tsarnaev

Tsarnaev's friends: He was a good person

Several of Dzhokhar's friends provided tearful testimony supporting his character. “He was laid-back, loyal and fun. There was never an occasion when he was angry or disagreeable,” Tiarrah Dottin, fellow University of Massachusetts student, said of Tsarnaev. “I really miss the person that I knew. He was there for me,” Alexa Guevara, another student, said.
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Tiarrah Dottin, Fellow student of Dzhokhar
Alexa Guevara, Fellow student of Dzhokhar

Family members portray a happy childhood

Jurors heard how Tsarnaev came from a dysfunctional family that had come to the United States from a former republic of the Soviet Union in search of a better life. Many of the family members had not seen Dzhokhar since he was 8 years old, but some did interact with Tamerlan in 2012 when he visited Dagestan. Speaking through an interpreter, each one recalled the cute and happy child they remembered.
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Naida Suleimanova, Dzhokhar's cousin
Shakhrvzat Suleimanova, Dzhokhar's aunt

Defense puts the death penalty on trial

Defense lawyers also presented witnesses to argue that life in a “supermax” prison is a worse fate than death. Prisons expert Mark Bezy explained the life of a prison inmate in solitary confinement. They also called a famous Roman Catholic nun opposed to the death penalty to claim Tsarnaev was remorseful, a move prosecutors had fought. They asked Sister Helen Prejean what she thought after meeting with Tsarnaev several times. Prejean said: “He was genuinely sorry for what he did.”
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Mark Bezy, Prison expert
Sister Helen Prejean, Roman Catholic nun

Closing arguments offer divergent pictures

Closing arguments were the last chance prosecutors and defense lawyers got to sway the jury. Judge O'Toole addressed the jury and asked them to "consider the evidence as a whole.” The decision then fell to the jury, which delivered its decision on the second full day of deliberations.
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Steven D. Mellin, Prosecution lawyer
Judith Clarke, Defense lawyer

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