The Tsarnaev trial: Drawing a line

Dzhokhar Tsarnaev was found guilty in April of carrying out a terrorist attack with his brother at the Boston Marathon in 2013. The jury later sentenced him to death for his crimes. The Washington Post's Richard Johnson was in Boston to draw the final days of Tsarnaev's trial. Find blog posts that chronicle his experiences here.

Friday, May 15, 2015

Jury sentences Tsarnaev to death

A federal jury on Friday sentenced Dzhokhar Tsarnaev to death for his role in the Boston Marathon bombings, rejecting defense attorneys’ arguments that the young man had fallen under the sway of his older brother and was remorseful over the suffering he caused. The jury of seven women and five men rendered its decision after deliberating for more than 14 hours. As the verdict was read, Tsarnaev displayed no sign of emotion.

Protesters outside the courtroom

Defense attorney William Fick

Reporters waiting for the jury to return the verdict

Reporters debating the federal death penalty law

Tsarnaev and the defense listen to counts against him

Tsarnaev after the verdict

Thursday, May 14, 2015


The penalty phase: Final deliberations

The jury in the Tsarnaev Trial has finally retired to consider a verdict in the death penalty trial of Dzhokhar Tsarnaev. After twelve days of penalty phase testimony from witnesses, friends, victims, family members and experts the jury will make their decision based on any one of the seventeen charges from the list of thirty that carry the death penalty. United States Federal Judge George O’Toole Junior directed the jurors to return to their deliberations during a brief session of court this morning.

Prosecution lawyers in conversation this morning before a brief court appearance

Tsarnaev stands before the court

Prosecution lawyers attempting to fathom the jury's question

Judge O'Toole attempting to decipher a note from the jury

Tsarnaev bemused, looking at counselors

Defense table at the end of the day

Boston Herald reporter Laurel Sweet waiting

Wednesday, May 13, 2015


The penalty phase: Closing arguments

Closing arguments began Wednesday in the death penalty phase of the Boston Marathon bombing trial, the last chance prosecutors and defense lawyers will get to sway the jury. Judge O'Toole also addressed the jury and asked them to "consider the evidence as a whole." At stake is the life of Dzhokhar Tsarnaev, 21, who was convicted last month of carrying out the 2013 attacks with his older brother. The twin bombings killed three people, including an 8-year-old boy, and wounded more than 260.

Judge George A. O'Toole, Jr. instructs the jury before closing arguments

Prosecutor Steven D. Mellin during prosecution closing arguments

Family members and victims listen to Steven D. Mellin close

Tsarnaev listening to Steven D. Mellin close

Defense lawyer Judith Clarke with the defense's closing arguments

Family members and victims listen to Judith Clarke close

Prosecutor William Weinreb gives rebuttal to defense's closing

The debate is over. Tsarnaev sits after the jury retires to consider its verdict

Monday, May 11, 2015


The penalty phase: The defense

Despite prosecutors’ objections, Sister Helen Prejean, a leading U.S. advocate for abolishing the death penalty (she of Susan Sarandon – “Dead Man Walking” fame), took the stand this morning. Her testimony may well tip the balance in the case, as Dzhokhar Tsarnaev was given a voice for the first time. Prejean talked about the highlights of their five meetings together. “We had definite disagreements, but always respectful,” she said. According to Prejean, after trust was established, he told her his feelings: Describing the bombing victims, "he said it emphatically, ‘no one deserves to suffer like they did.’” She said she believes his response was spontaneous and that she was sure he was sincere. After a couple of rebuttal witnesses from the prosecution, both the prosecution and defense have now rested their cases. The judge recused the jury until Wednesday, when closing arguments will begin. Prejean, for one, will hope that the jury believes her interpretation of Tsarnaev’s sincerity.

Jury duty Massive queue at metal detectors this morning

FBI agents talking over the case before courtroom nine opens

Young man, Reece Stevenson, age 12, attending the historic trial with his mother Anne.

FBI agents in courtroom nine waiting for the jury to arrive

Sister Helen Prejean talks about her five meetings with Dzhokhar

Michelle Nicolet, FBI agent overseeing SAMs*, is a prosecution rebuttal witness

Holly Bailey, reporter with Yahoo News

John Oliver, warden of the Colorado Supermax prison, is also a prosecution rebuttal witness

Tim Watkins of the defense cross examines John Oliver

Dzhokhar Tsarnaev will return Wednesday for closing arguments

Thursday, May 7, 2015

Testimony continued today after an hour delay, with Steven D. Mellin of the prosecution grilling Mark Bezy, a prisons expert brought in by the defense team to convince the jury that life in prison is worse than death. It was a long and difficult cross-examination filled with multiple stoppages with no clear resolution on the facts. After another lengthy delay, the court reconvened long enough for the jury to be dismissed for the week. Word from the prosecution’s press secretary was that a heated debate in chambers surrounding the defense’s planned final witness, Sister Helen Prejean, had stalled proceedings completely. Prejean is a Roman Catholic nun whose relationship with a death row inmate inspired the book "Dead Man Walking,” which was adapted into a film. More on Monday.

The back row reporters tweeting with abandon

Public benches listening to cross-examination of prison expert Mark Bezy

The delay Lawyers waiting on result of back room debate

Judy Rosenberg drawing the media during the delay

Wednesday, May 6, 2015

The morning was delayed slightly by the prosecution’s consternation that a witness from overseas could not be sworn in properly. But Elmirza Khozhugov swore to tell the truth before he testified today from the U.S. Embassy in Almaty, Kazakhstan. The morning ended after brief testimony from Jennifer Callison, a special education teacher who praised Dzhokhar Tsarnaev’s volunteer work in her ”Best Buddies” class for developmentally delayed children. The prosecution did not cross-examine. In the afternoon, we heard more good character testimony from Tsarnaev’s math teacher, followed by testimony from one of the U.S. Marshals about the bird-flipping incident. The day ended with a lengthy, frequently interrupted cross-examination of a prisons expert brought in to persuade the jury that life in prison without chance of parole was no holiday camp. Cross-examination of that witness will continue tomorrow.

Katelyn checks journalists, lawyers and public viewers into the courtroom

U.S. Marshals stand guard

Elmirza Khozhugov, formerly the husband of Tamerlan's sister Ailinaflyov, testifies via satellite video

Adam Bagni, NBC 10

Jennifer Callison, a transitional specialist, knows Dzhokhar through his school's "Best Buddies" club.

Eric Traub, Dzhokhar’s math teacher in 2007 and 2011

Kevin Michael Roche, Deputy U.S. Marshal (on middle finger incident)

Mark Bezy, Prisons consultant and former prison warden

The public, Listening to the testy cross-examination of Mark Bezy

Tuesday, May 5, 2015

Dzhokhar Tsarnaev’s friends were back on the stand throughout the day as the defense questioned everyone from his driver’s education buddies to former wrestling teammates. The defense also interviewed the former college roommate of Katherine Russell (Tamerlan’s wife). But much of the afternoon was taken up by the expert testimony of Princeton University professor Michael Reynolds, an expert in Eurasian Studies who had been tasked by the defense with examining all of the material found on various laptops, specifically Tamerlan’s browser history and searches. A testy and uncomfortable cross-examination of Reynolds by William D. Weinreb of the prosecution slowed the proceedings to a crawl. More witnesses tomorrow.

Joe, the morning protester

Amanda Ransom, College roommate of Katherine Russell (Tamerlan's Wife)

Elizabeth Zamparelli, High school friend of Dzhokhar

Mirre Kuznetzov, Tsarnaev's Russian language video store owner

Alexander Niss, Psychiatrist for Dzhokhar's father Anzor

Michael Reynolds, Princeton professor of Eurasia studies

Henry Alvarez, on the same wrestling team as Dzhokhar

End of the day, The John Joseph Moakley Federal Courthouse

Monday, May 4, 2015

The defense called multiple witnesses from Russia today. Many of them have not seen Dzhokhar since he was 8 years old, but some did interact with Tamerlan in 2012 when he visited family members in Dagestan. Speaking through an interpreter, each one recalled the cute and happy child they remembered, and each was rendered tearful when photographs of 8-year old Dzhokhar were shown. In the late afternoon, Dzhokhar’s friends were back on the stand and the prosecution had its chance to cross-examine Alexa Guevara about what she knew and when. The day closed with Rosa Booth, a high-school friend, talking about the crush she had on a younger, “goofier” Dzhokhar.

Officer Hogeboom, The John Joseph Moakley Federal Courthouse

Queueing, Hoping for access to court

Raisat Suleimanova, Dzhokhar's cousin

Naida Suleimanova, Dzhokhar's cousin

Marshals, New rotation of Tsarnaev guardians

Shakhruzat Suleimanova, Dzhokhar's aunt

Nabisat Suleimanova, Dzhokhar's cousin

Nadine Pellegrini, Cross-examining Alexa Guevara

A word with the Judge

Rosa Booth, Dzhokhar's high school friend

Thursday, April 30, 2015

The sight of Dzhokhar Tsarnaev's family members in court had the media abuzz and all the court artists sharpening their drawing implements in anticipation of a day of key testimony in the defense's attempt to keep Tsarnaev from the death penalty, but it was not to be. After a long morning delay, U.S. District Judge George A. O’Toole Jr. appeared briefly and adjourned the case until Monday as one of the jurors apparently had come down with "a temporary illness.”

Witnesses waiting to be called

Zoë Sobel WBUR Production Assistant

Waiting in the courtroom

Wednesday, April 29, 2015

A long initial talk in chambers with the judge led to a delay and then redaction of some of the sensitive documents provided by the Russian Security Services (FSB). The FSB provided the transcripts to the FBI. Through a court narrator, we heard excerpts of the FSB/FBI interview transcripts of people who had been in contact with Tamerlan Tsarnaev in Russia in 2012. These generally supported the defense case of Tamerlan as the aggressor. In the late morning, we heard from the paramedics who handled both Tamerlan and Dzhokhar’s injuries in the ambulances. This afternoon, a succession of Dzhokhar’s teachers from third grade through high school took the stand, generally bolstering the defense’s case. The prosecution did not bother to rebut most of those testimonies. The day ended with tearful testimony from some of Dzhokhar’s college friends.

Dzhokhar Tsarnaev Walking into court

Waiting While counselors meet with Judge in chambers

Miriam Conrad Defense attorney for Dzhokhar Tsarnaev

Sam Lipson Landlord for the Tsarnaev family for twelve years

Michael Sullivan Paramedic responding to Tamerlan Tsarnaev

Laura Lee Paramedic responding to Dzhokhar Tsarnaev

Catheryn Charner-Laird Third-grade teacher of Dzhokhar Tsarnaev

Tracey Gordon Fifth- and sixth-grade teacher of Dzhokhar Tsarnaev at a Cambridge school

Becki Norris Taught at Dzhokhar Tsarnaev's middle school

Tiarrah Dottin College friend of Dzhokhar Tsarnaev

Alexa Guevara College friend of Dzhokhar Tsarnaev

Tuesday, April 28, 2015

The defense team continued to try to paint Dzhokhar Tsarnaev as someone led astray by his older brother, as a series of friends, acquaintances, fellow boxing enthusiasts and even his family’s landlord, testified about their, at times, vague relationship with Tamerlan Tsarnaev. The defense fished throughout the day to expose Tamerlan’s leadership role in the relationship with his brother. The prosecution quickly swatted down much of the testimony as being unrelated to Dzhokhar, by pointing out that many of the witnesses had never even met him. The day ended with a reading of FBI interview transcripts from witnesses who were unavailable. The most interesting interview was from Magomed Dolakov, a Russian who was with the brothers three days before the bombings but has since disappeared.

Death penalty protester

Cameramen outside the courthouse

Defense readying exhibits for presentation

Dzhokhar Tsarnaev

Defense counsel William Fick and computer forensic expert reveal images on Tamerlan Tsarnaev’s laptop.

Rosario Franzi Friend of Tamerlan Tsarnaev

Boston police officers checking for trial updates on their phones

Miriam Conrad Defense attorney for Dzhokhar Tsarnaev

Dzhokhar Tsarnaev Listening to witnesses

Timothy Watkins Defense attorney for Dzhokhar Tsarnaev

Reporters listening to FBI interview transcript with Magomed Dolakov – unavailable to testify

Dzhokhar Tsarnaev Listening to reading of FBI interview

Monday, April 27, 2015

David Bruck made the opening statement this morning as Dzhokhar Tsarnaev’s defense team began its much anticipated attempt to save him from the death penalty. “One punishment is over quickly, the other will last for life,” Bruck told the jury. “All he’ll be able to see through his narrow cell window is a patch of sky. There will be no e-mail, there will be no messages, there will be no autobiography. There will be no nothing,” he said. Witnesses for the defense continued throughout the day.

The prosecution

David Bruck Defense opening statement

Imam Loay Assaf talking about Dzhokhar Tsarnaev’s brother Tamerlan

Laith Albehacy

Robert Barnes talking about Dzhokhar Tsarnaev’s brother Tamerlan

Journalists queueing after lunch break

Judith Russell Mother-in-law of Tamerlan Tsarnaev

Gina Crawford Best friend of Katherine Russell, Tamerlan’s wife

Robert Ponti Piano teacher of Tamerlan Tsarnaev (2003-2004)

Thursday, April 23, 2015

The penalty phase: The prosecution

After a break of a week since finding Tsarnaev guilty on all 30 charges against him, the jury returned to Boston’s John Joseph Moakley Federal Courthouse on Tuesday to consider whether he deserved the death penalty for his deeds, in what basically amounts to a whole new trial. The testimonies concluded today.

Prosecution confab

Marc Fucarile Amputee

Heather Abbott Amputee

Dr. David King talking about deceased eight-year-old Martin Richard

Steve Woolfenden Amputee, father of three-year-old wounded Leo Woolfenden

Courtroom strains to see video of Steve and Leo Woolfenden bomb blast on monitor

Wednesday, April 22, 2015

After a break of a week since finding Tsarnaev guilty on all 30 charges against him, the jury returned to Boston’s John Joseph Moakley Federal Courthouse on Tuesday to consider whether he deserved the death penalty for his deeds, in what basically amounts to a whole new trial. The testimonies continued today.

Reporters wait for jury to return from break

The Tsarnaev defense team

Andrew Collier Brother of deceased MIT campus police officer Sean Collier

Joseph Rogers Stepfather of deceased MIT campus police officer Sean Collier

Eric Wally Wounded

Adrianne Haslet-Davis Wounded, wife of wounded Adam Davis

Tsarnaev talks to his lawyer

Tsarnaev's security detail

Court security

Jinyan Zhao ‘Auntie’ of deceased Lingzi Lu

Court listen’s tor translated memorial message from Lu Jun father of deceased Lingzi Lu

Federal Courthouse security

Tuesday, April 21, 2015

After a break of a week since finding Tsarnaev guilty on all 30 charges against him, the jury returned to Boston’s John Joseph Moakley Federal Courthouse today to consider whether he deserved the death penalty for his deeds, in what basically amounts to a whole new trial. The judge instructed the jury, and the prosecution gave a statement on the damage inflicted, before beginning to call the victims to the stand to testify. We heard from people who had lost limbs in the blast, along with others who had lost family members. Throughout it all, Tsarnaev sat unmoved, mostly staring straight ahead, sometimes relaxing with his head in his hand.

Morning outside the court

Jury instruction

The prosecution lays out the cost

Celeste Corcoran — double amputee

Gillian Reny — wounded

William Campbell Jr. — father of deceased Krystal Campbell

Nicole Gross — wounded

Afternoon outside the court

Wednesday, April 8, 2015

Verdict is handed down

Wednesday started out much like Tuesday did. A media circus held in check by having nothing to report. Even the various protesters quit protesting for a bit while they saved their energy for the verdict. The single protester that remained stood mute and anonymous, face covered in an American flag. Just after lunch, a verdict was announced and the whole apparatus of reporting the obvious and expected result moved into high gear. Tsarnaev was brought out again, entering the court with his usual distinct swagger. He remained impassive and seemingly unmoved as he was found guilty on every charge. Only at the end as he sat while the judge spoke to the jury did he seem to collapse in on himself, head dropping and shoulders slumping forward.

Tuesday, April 7, 2015

Jury begins deliberations

Tuesday has been a day of patience and waiting. This morning U.S. District Court judge George O’Toole gave his final final instructions to the Jury before they immediately left to begin work on weighing the evidence and seeking a consensus on all the charges against Dzhokhar Tsarnaev. The accused appeared somewhat disinterested as this went on around him before he was led out of the courtroom himself. For the rest of us, the day became a waiting game. Lots of working and reworking of possible leads by print, video, radio and online reporters from all around the globe filled the morning hours. By afternoon, the reporters were wandering the halls but ready to bolt for the court at the slightest sign that a verdict might be imminent. Jury members deliberated for more than seven hours and were due to resume their work Wednesday morning.

Monday April 6, 2015

Monday was a day of closing arguments at the Dzhokhar Tsarnaev trial in Boston. In the morning, U.S. District Court judge George O’Toole gave his final directions to the jury on all of the charges that had been placed against the accused. This took some time as Judge O’Toole wanted to make sure the jury understood what was required. Before lunch, U.S. Attorney for the Prosecution Aloke Chakravarty gave his direct assessment of what he expected of the jury. This was followed after lunch by defense attorney Judy Clarke who asked that the jury look at all of the information required and where she thought the prosecution’s case was thin. The day ended with another clear enunciation of the rules and expectations from Judge O’Toole.

Before the trial

Setting the scene

Almost two years after the attacks there is not much to see at the locations of the two deadly bomb attacks in Boston. In front of Marathon Place Sports where the first bomb ignited, the pavement is loose and there are markers up warning people of the uneven surface, but the actual epicenter of the blast just to the west appears to have been paved over. The tree in front of the vacant storefront just over 230 yards farther west has been replaced. The original was removed as evidence shortly after the attack. This spring the new tree will bud and bloom just like all the other trees on Boylston Street. There are no signs and no obvious memorials.

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Before the trial

As bomb trial neared, Boston braced for a painful recounting of the bombings.

A week of terror

Dzhokhar Tsarnaev's arrest the night of Friday, April 19, 2013 ended a wrenching five days in Boston, which began when two bombs exploded near the finish line of the Boston Marathon.