The 21-year-old doe-eyed Chechen-American Dzokhar Tsarnaev has been found guilty on all 30 counts with which he was charged in the April 15, 2013 Boston Marathon bombing. The jury delivered the verdict in federal court in Boston on Wednesday, April 8, after just a day and a half of deliberations.
Few were surprised at the convictions, especially given that the opening and closing statements given by Tsarnaev’s lawyers included the words “he did it.” But his lawyer, Judy Clarke, attempted to reinforce throughout the trial that Dzokhar, the younger Tsarnaev brother, was completely influenced by his older brother, without whom the tragedy never would have occurred.
Tamerlan, 26 at the time of the bombings, was killed in a shoot-out with police days after the attacks. While the older brother as the primarily responsible actor theory was not enough to excuse Dzokhar, it may play a role in the jury’s decision about whether to impose life imprisonment or to choose the death penalty.
The next stage of the trial, the sentencing phase, is where predictions become slightly more dicey. Seventeen of the 30 counts on which Tsarnaev was convicted carry the death penalty as potential punishments, including use of a weapon of mass destruction.
In this next phase, mitigating evidence will be presented by Tsarnaev’s lawyers. Factors such as the defendant’s tumultuous home life, his life as an immigrant from war-torn former Soviet republics and, perhaps, inhospitable attitudes towards Muslims, will be introduced in an effort to encourage the jurors to eschew the death penalty.
The prosecution is expected to introduce more of what was presented during the guilt phrase of the trial. In particular, the choice of a heavily populated recreational venue, the gruesome and searingly painful deaths and mutilations caused by the bombs are aggravating factors which would weigh in favor of imposing the death penalty.
The April 15, 2013 bombs that exploded near the finish line of the Boston Marathon killed three spectators, two young women, a 23 year-old graduate student at Boston University, Lingzi Lu; Krystal Campbell, a 29 year-old restaurant manager, and a third grader, Martin Richard.
More than 260 participants and spectators were wounded by the bombings, many seriously.The pressure-cooker bombs were packed with shrapnel in order to cause maximum bodily damage.
In addition to those killed and wounded at the bombing site, 27 year-old MIT security officer Sean Collier was shot at point-blank range by the Tsarnaevs several days after the bombings.
The date for the penalty phase of Tsarnaev’s trial has not yet been set.