Tsarnaev’s fate goes to jury

The jury that delivered a guilty verdict will determine Dzhokhar Tsarnaev’s sentence during the penalty phase.

Aerial photo of the ADX federal supermax prison in Colorado where Dzhokhar Tsarnaev could be sentenced to life without parole.
Aerial photo of the ADX federal supermax prison in Colorado where Dzhokhar Tsarnaev could be sentenced to life without parole. –Federal Public Defender Office

Marathon bombing victim Krystle Campbell was the “light of her father’s life,’’ prosecutor Steve Mellin said during closing arguments in the penalty phase of the Dzhokhar Tsarnaev trial Wednesday.

“Now,’’ Mellin said, “that light is out.’’

At any point before those two bombs exploded at the finish line on that beautiful Patriots’ Day, Tsarnaev “could have reflected, reconsidered, and stood down’’ from the destruction he and his brother had planned for months, he said

Instead, Mellin said, Tsarnaev walked up behind a group of children, placed a backpack four feet behind them, and waited. Mellin paused for 20 seconds during his argument — and then told the jury that Tsarnaev waited 12 times that before walking away.


“The defendant knew what kind of hell was going to happen, that he unleashed,’’ he said.

That hell encompassed more than the pain the dead and wounded suffered, Mellin said. It’s the torment the survivors still feel, the families — like the Richards and the Corcorans — that were physically and emotionally “blown apart’’ by the events of that day.

Mellin denounced the defense team’s assertion that Tsarnaev was under his older brother Tamerlan’s sway: “Tamerlan Tsarnaev was not the defendant’s master. They were partners in crime and brothers in arms. Both decided they wanted to punish America, in a way that would win them glory and a place in paradise.’’

The brothers targeted Patriots’ Day, a day in which they knew families would gather to watch the marathon, in which the world would be watching, Mellin said, and targeted innocent people.

Tsarnaev has been remorseless all along, Mellin said, buying milk right after the bombings and flipping off his holding cell’s camera months later.

“The only sentence that will do justice in this case is a sentence of death,’’ he said.

But in her closing argument, defense attorney Judy Clarke said the death penalty is reserved for the worst of the worst — and “Dzhokhar Tsarnaev is not the worst of the worst.’’


Clarke spent much of her argument going through the circumstances that brought Tsarnaev into the plot she said originated with Tamerlan.

“The story of the Boston Marathon bombing is of a tragedy of their making, but it is more than that,’’ she said.

Clarke detailed Tsarnaev’s family life, from the many moves he went through as a child to his troubled parents and status as “the invisible kid,’’ and, finally, Tamerlan’s influential personality and radical beliefs crystallized during his 2012 trip to Russia.

“To say Tamerlan did not influence Dzhokhar defies the reality,’’ Clarke said, adding that, by September of 2012, Dzhokhar’s “sole source of family, of support, of strength, was his older brother.’’

Tamerlan was the one who sought jihad in Russia, who sent radical Islamist materials to Dzhokhar, who had a photograph of dead children as his computer’s wallpaper, she said.

“Dzhokhar would never have done this, but for Tamerlan,’’ Clarke said.

According to Clarke, the government failed to prove that Dzhokhar is a hopeless case for whom the only appropriate punishment is death. According to the testimony of Sister Helen Prejean, he has even grown to show remorse for his crimes, she said.

“We think we’ve shown you that … Dzhokhar has potential for redemption,’’ Clarke said.

Should Tsarnaev be spared, she said, it’ll be no picnic. He’ll be sent to ADX, where Clarke said “he’ll have no glory and stature that martyrdom could bring.’’

Clarke emphasized that no punishment could take back what Tsarnaev did, or even “balance the scales.’’ Life is prison is not a lesser punishment than death, she said — it’s just another kind.


“I ask you to make a decision of strength,’’ she told jurors. “I ask you to choose life.’’

During his rebuttal, prosecutor William Weinreb criticized the defense’s continued focus on Tamerlan: “At times it might have seemed to you that Tamerlan was on trial.’’

But at no point in the trial, Weinreb said, did the defense prove that Tamerlan made his brother commit any crimes, or brainwashed him to hold any radical beliefs.

Instead, Tsarnaev’s “actions are the best guide to the depths of his beliefs,’’ he said.

Despite defense testimony that Tsarnaev feels remorse, Weinreb said that it is unlikely that Tsarnaev would spend much time thinking about the bombing victims should he be sent to prison for life.

“Maybe he’ll leave behind his memories of Martin, Lingzi and Krystle the same way he left them lying on the street, bleeding,’’ he said.

“The defendant deserves the death penalty not because he’s inhuman,’’ Weinreb said, “but because he’s inhumane.’’

Referring to life in prison as the minimum allowable punishment for Tsarnaev’s crimes, Weinreb asked jurors, “Does he deserve the minimum punishment, or do these crimes, these four deaths, deserve something more?’’

It was the government’s last line to the jury, who are now tasked with determining Tsarnaev’s fate.

Read past daily summaries from the trial.

The Alcatraz of the Rockies

Follow live updates from reporters at the trial below.


The Guide to the Dzhokhar Tsarnaev Trial

Names You’ll Hear at the Tsarnaev Trial

The Charges Against Dzhokhar Tsarnaev Explained in Plain English

Map: Important Boston Marathon Bombing Locations

Timeline of Boston Marathon Bombing Events

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