(BOSTON) — Ninety-six witnesses and nearly a month of dramatic court hearings later, the jury of seven women and five men on Tuesday enters its first day of deliberations in the case of accused Boston Marathon bomber Dzhokhar Tsarnaev.
Judge George O’Toole greeted jurors on Tuesday and immediately sent them off to begin weighing 30 criminal counts. Before leaving, they had a chance to glimpse Tsarnaev one last time before weighing his guilt, as the defendant sat at the defense table in a dark shirt and jacket.
In closing arguments Monday, the prosecution attempted to paint Tsarnaev as a radical — a young man who would “lose himself” in pro-jihadi music, purposefully brought “battle” to Boston and then, just before he was captured, wrote an anti-American screed indicating the bombing was in response to the U.S. killing Muslims abroad.
“It was intentional, it was bloodthirsty, it was to make a point,” U.S. attorney Aloke Chakravarty told the court.
The defense stuck by what appeared at first to be an odd strategy: admitting Tsarnaev was responsible for the carnage that day in April 2013, but claiming that it was his older brother, the late Tamerlan Tsarnaev, who led Dzhokhar down the dark path and who shoulders more of the blame.
“There is no excuse. No one is trying to make one. Planting bombs at the Boston Marathon was a senseless act… We are not asking you to excuse the conduct, but let’s look at the varying roles,” defense attorney Judy Clarke said. “If not for Tamerlan, it [the bombing] wouldn’t have happened.”
Clarke stunned the court during opening statements in the trial last month when she flatly admitted, “it was him,” referring to her client’s responsibility for the death and destruction.
But at the time, legal analysts told ABC News that such a strategy, along with declining to aggressively cross-examine bombing victims or witnesses, was not designed to win this trial, but to avoid the death penalty for Tsarnaev should he be found guilty. Of the 30 counts Tsarnaev faces, 17 carry a potential death penalty punishment.
“Given the amount of evidence the government has, I would suggest it’s the only strategy,” Robert Bloom, a Boston College law professor, told ABC News last month. “I think their objective is to develop a rapport with the jury. They certainly don’t want to go and cross examine victims very hard. By developing a rapport with the jury, when their turn comes to talk about the death penalty phase of it, they will have a rapport with the same jurors that are hearing all this evidence.”
Charles Ogletree, professor of law at Harvard Law School, agreed.
“Their point is there’s no question that what he did was wrong, being involved in the marathon bombing, but they’re also saying that life imprisonment is enough punishment that would appropriate,” he said.
If Tsarnaev is found guilty of any of the death penalty-eligible counts, the trial will then move into a penalty phase, during which the same jurors will hear each side’s argument over whether Tsarnaev should face the ultimate punishment.
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