9 Things We’ve Learned at the Boston Marathon Bombing Trial

Dzhokhar Tsarnaev purchased milk less than an hour after the bombings.
Dzhokhar Tsarnaev purchased milk less than an hour after the bombings. –US Attorney’s Office

After arguments from both the prosecution and defense in the Boston Marathon bombing trial of Dzhokhar Tsarnaev, there remains little doubt of Tsarnaev’s guilt. “It was him,’’ defense attorney Judy Clarke said in opening statements.

But the trial has illuminated a number of previously unknown aspects of Tsarnaev, his family, and the events of the bombing and its aftermath. With closing arguments set for Monday, let’s take stock of what we’ve learned over the past month in court.

Immediately after the bombing, Tsarnaev went to Whole Foods to buy milk.

In the prosecution’s opening statement, William Weinreb cast Tsarnaev as an unremorseful killer by pointing out that he visited a Whole Foods right after he and his brother killed three and injured over 260 in the bombing. He bought a liter of milk, surveillance video shows.


Unhappy with his purchase, Tsarnaev then returned to the store and traded that milk in for another milk bottle.

Video shows carjacking victim’s daring escape.

Dun Meng testified that his SUV was carjacked, and he was held at gunpoint by the Tsarnaev brothers on the night of April 18, 2013. But with Dzhokhar in a gas station buying snacks and Tamerlan distracted, Meng fled the vehicle in a dramatic escape caught on surveillance video.

His terrified pleas for the nearby gas station attendant to call police, all caught on camera, was one of the more harrowing pieces of evidence presented.

Tsarnaev’s written note was covered with streaks of blood.

While hiding from police in a boat in Watertown on April 19, 2013, Tsarnaev wrote a final note on the boat’s panels explaining his motives for the bombings.

“The U.S. Government is killing our innocent civilians,’’ he wrote. “We Muslims are one body, you hurt one you hurt us all.’’

Parts of the message were covered or blurred by bullet holes and streaks of blood after police opened fire on the boat. The boat had more than 100 bullet holes in it. The phrase “Stop killing our innocent people and we will stop,’’ was scratched into another wooden panel inside the boat.


With bomb in hand, Tsarnaev stood directly behind the Richard family.

The photo above shows Tsarnaev, partially obscured by a tree, carrying a backpack and standing directly behind the Richard family. Martin Richard, the 8-year-old in a black jacket standing up on the gate, was the youngest victim killed when the bomb inside that backpack exploded.

This image was one of the prosecution’s last pieces of evidence, along with graphic descriptions and photos of Martin’s autopsy. The images and testimony left several jurors in tears.

The government still isn’t sure where the bombs were built.

FBI explosives expert David McCollam testified that he and his team still could not say where the Tsarnaevs’ bombs were assembled. Traces of explosive material, BBs, a jar of nails, and construction equipment were found at the Tsarnaev family home in Cambridge, but McCollam could not definitively pinpoint that as the bomb-making location.

Tsarnaevs’ gun has a lengthy criminal history.

Friend Stephen Silva testified that he gave Tsarnaev a P95 Ruger 9mm gun in early 2013. Prosecutors say that gun, which was recovered after the shootout in Watertown, was used to shoot and kill MIT Police Officer Sean Collier. In Watertown, a total of 56 9mm shell casings were found.

The Ruger had traded hands a number of times before reaching the Tsarnaevs.

Tamerlan bought backpacks, BBs, and pressure cookers by himself.

The defense has attempted to portray older brother Tamerlan as the mastermind and driving force of the bombing. That argument has been buoyed by a series of receipts, surveillance video, and digital forensics that show Tamerlan purchased most of the items used in the bombings.


The still image above shows Tamerlan buying two backpacks from Target by himself a day before the bombing. The radio transmitter, allegedly used to set off the bombs remotely, was purchased through Tamerlan’s Amazon account. And GPS and cell phone data placed Dzhokhar elsewhere when BBs and the pressure cookers were purchased.

Pipe bomb found in Watertown looks very similar to al-Qaida’s description.

Thumb drives, iPods, and computers belonging to both Tsarnaev brothers included files of the al-Qaida magazine Inspire. In an article titled “Make a Bomb in the Kitchen of Your Mom,’’ the magazine has step-by-step instructions on contructing a pipe bomb.

As you can see above, the bomb recovered in Watertown (right) that failed to explode bears a striking similarity to an image of Inspire’s final product (left).

Tsarnaev blamed his academic struggles on Chechen family problems.

Less than three months before the bombing, Tsarnaev wrote a letter to UMass Dartmouth explaining why he had flunked so many courses. He blamed his academic failures on stress related to the occupation of Chechnya, where his relatives lived, by Russian soldiers.

“I am at a point where I can finally focus on my school work,’’ he wrote. “I wish to do well so one day I can help out those in need in my country, especially my family members.’’

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