I don’t consider myself a bloodthirsty person. I like to think that I could rise above the need for revenge even if it were personal which of course for much of Boston it is. I am not sure I even favor the death penalty for any crimes. But in just one day in court spent listening to the testimony of the horribly maimed and the horribly bereaved — while seeing the already convicted Dzhokhar Tsarnaev look mostly bored — and I begin to understand the challenge that the jury will face in remaining objective. Tsarnaev is not making it easy.
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 Tuesday 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 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.
I have managed — mostly through begging — to secure myself a seat in the court proper. No easy feat when there are journalists from all over the planet attempting to get access. The seat was right at the back, not up where the cool artists are. This meant that I was drawing with my googly glasses and even worse with binoculars.
Both of these methods of drawing are extremely challenging and headache inducing, but the biggest issue today was the testimony itself. Much of what was said by the series of grievously wounded or shockingly bereaved was heart wrenching.
The first on the stand was Celeste Corcoran who talked over the day of the bombing. About how she and her family arrived early and toured around her own hometown. About sitting with her face turned up to the warm spring sunshine while she waited. About the blast itself and not understanding what had happened. She was looking right at the jury over Tsarnaev’s curly head when she said “It is very hard to explain, but I want to get it right to help all of you understand,” but in reliving her grief her sentences where fragmentary. “Our whole world exploded. I remember being thrown up in the air … I remember this thick, thick black smoke and I was choking … I remember … there was a deafening silence … both my eardrums got blown out … there was blood everywhere … I remember seeing so much blood where my legs were.” Then Celeste started talking about the damage inflicted on her daughter Sydney, who had been standing beside her when the bomb detonated. She talked about their time in the hospital together and how one of the hardest things she faced was being unable to comfort her own child because of her own wounds.
That is how the day went. There was a succession of witnesses each of which I had to draw and listen to while getting the odd quote from and each one with an important, harrowing and sad story. Grown men cried and it turns out that drawing through binoculars is easy but drawing through tears not so much.
Every now and then I would glance at Tsarnaev, there is little of the youthfulness that once gave him the appearance of innocence. His face is now angular and gaunt. His beard, graying with sallow skin and eyes deeply shadow under heavy brows. He now looks about as cuddly as Rasputin. But even so when a particularly gruesome piece of evidence came up or at one of those moments of true loss when tears would shine in everyone’s eyes, I would look his way, hoping for some sign.
Nothing. Nothing that I could see, not even fear.
At the end of the prosecution’s summing up of Tsarnaev’s character in the morning they released a still from a video camera from his cell while in custody. This was an image that had been rumored to exist. It was not complimentary. In it Tsarnaev stands middle finger raised to the world inches from the camera, his mouth forms an ‘o’ that seems to be laughing at the shock of his own gesture. The prosecution obviously used this as a coup de grace in the skewering of his character to drive home their belief, that Tsarnaev was in no way a victim, and there was no remorse. The image was only on screen for less than a minute. So the sketch was mostly from memory. If they release it I’ll compare it for accuracy.
Towards the end of the day William Campbell Jr., father of 29-year-old Krystie Marie Campbell, a deceased bombing victim, took the stand. He attempted to answer the questions from the prosecution as he had probably rehearsed doing, but even two years on talking about the daughter he had loved and lost, obviously was physically straining on him. At times as he became lost in some reminiscence, his head would drop as he tried desperately to keep it together. At the end of his time on the stand the prosecution lawyer asked him one final question. What will you miss most about your daughter? It would have been easy to use some big honest answer – the grandchildren I’ll never have – the life she will not live, but instead Mr. Campbell’s eyes glazed again then he dropped his head, searching for that one key thing. When he told the court the one true thing that HE would miss. “I miss my hug every day, he said, she never left the house without giving me a hug.”
When the trial gave out at the end of the day my head was still buzzing with it all. So I decided to end my day much as I had started it with a bit of outdoor sketching. I found this NBC National camera crew setting up ready to shoot their piece. After staring through binoculars at pain and loss all day it was just the break my mind and eyes needed. “I hope you got my good side?” the sound engineer shouted across at me as I worked. That made me laugh. I needed one.
More Tsarnaev tomorrow. Full Tsarnaev trial gallery here.
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