BOSTON -- Two depictions of Dzhokhar Tsarnaev emerged since the admitted Boston Marathon bomber's trial began on March 4 and it's almost time for the jury to decide once and for all which side it believes.
To prosecutors, he's a violent, Muslim extremist who partnered with his older brother to carry out the 2013 attack that killed three and wounded 264. But according to defense lawyers, the 21-year-old was compelled to take part by his domineering older brother, Tamerlan Tsarnaev, who brainstormed the attack and committed additional crimes, like the fatal shooting of a police officer during the search for the bombers.
The attorneys for the government and defense are likely to refresh the 12 jurors of these competing story lines today as they make closing arguments. The office of US Attorney Carmen Ortiz indicted Tsarnaev on 30 federal charges, including bombing of a public place and conspiracy to use a weapon of mass destruction, and he's pleaded not guilty to all counts.
The defense put just four witnesses on the stand to elicit testimony to minimize Tsarnaev's role in planning the attack and assembling the bomb. One defense witness said that Tamerlan searched online for information about explosives, but Dzhokhar logged on largely to Facebook and a Russian social network. A fingerprint examiner from the FBI testified last week that Tamerlan's fingerprints, but not Dzhokhar's, showed up on some bomb-making components, like a jar of nails found in the family's apartment in Cambridge, Massachusetts.
The prosecution meanwhile, called more than 90 witnesses. These included the emotional testimony of bombing survivors and firsthand accounts from police of the shootout in Watertown, Massachusetts, that resulted in Tamerlan’s death and Dzhokhar’s eventual capture. Unforgettable images bolstered the testimony by showing the Tsarnaev brothers hurrying through the crowd of spectators near the race’s finish line, followed by graphic pictures of the wounded moments after the explosions.
The indictment included 17 capital charges and in the extremely likely event that Tsarnaev is convicted of any them, the trial moves on to a penalty phase. The same jury will hear new testimony over several weeks before voting to either sentence him to death row or life without parole.
The defense’s goal from the trial onset has been to get a life sentence for Tsarnaev.