Boston bomber may face death penalty

2015-04-09 05:56
Dzhokhar Tsarnaev (Picture: AP)

Dzhokhar Tsarnaev (Picture: AP)

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Boston - Dzhokhar Tsarnaev faces a new court date after being convicted for the 2013 Boston bombings, with the jury now having to decide if the Boston Marathon bomber must pay for his crimes with his life.

Tsarnaev faces either life in prison or the death penalty, after a jury unanimously convicted him on Wednesday of carrying out the worst attack in the United States since the September 11 hijackings.

Jurors took a day and a half to find the 21-year-old former student guilty on all 30 counts related to the April 15, 2013 attacks, the murder of a police officer, a car jacking and a shootout while on the run.

The Muslim immigrant of Chechen descent, who took US citizenship in 2012, stood in a dark blazer, occasionally fidgeting and hooking one hand into his trouser pocket as the clerk read out the verdict.

He now faces life in prison without parole or even the death penalty when he is sentenced by the same jury at the second phase of the trial, which could start early next week, Judge George O'Toole told the court.

Survivors, including the parents of eight-year-old Martin Richard who was killed in the attacks, crammed into the gallery to hear the verdict as a strict security cordon was set up outside in the biting wind and sleet.

Three people were killed and 264 others wounded, including 17 who lost limbs, in the twin blasts at the city's marathon nearly two years ago.

Tsarnaev went on the run and was arrested four days later, hiding and injured in a boat on which he had scrawled a bloody message apparently justifying the attacks to avenge the US wars in Iraq and Afghanistan.

Survivors welcomed the verdict and thanked the jury after a harrowing month-long trial of grisly videos of the horror after the attacks, and heartbreaking testimony from those who lost limbs and loved ones.

Survivors welcome verdict

"We are thankful that Dzhokhar Tsarnaev will be held accountable for the evil that he brought to so many families," said the family of Sean Collier, a police officer whom the defendant murdered on the run.

The attacks shocked the relatively small northeastern city of Boston and revived fears of terrorism in the United States after the September 11, 2001 strikes on New York, Washington and Pennsylvania.

Boston Mayor Marty Walsh expressed hope that the trial would help bring some closure. "The incidents of those days have forever left a mark on our city," he said.

Seventeen of Tsarnaev's convictions carry the death penalty, and the second phase of the trial is likely to prove far more contentious.

Massachusetts has not executed anyone since 1947, and Catholic bishops in the state this week reiterated their opposition to the death penalty.

At trial, government prosecutors portrayed Tsarnaev as a callous terrorist who carried out the bombings to punish the United States, living a double life as a 19-year-old enrolled at University of Massachusetts, Dartmouth.

Tsarnaev's lawyers admitted that he planted one of the pressure-cooker bombs, but said he was a feckless accomplice, bullied or manipulated into taking part by his more radical elder brother, who was killed on the run.

Prosecutors spent four weeks calling 92 witnesses and presenting Tsarnaev as a cold, calculating killer, who learned with his brother how to build pressure-cooker bombs through al-Qaeda English-language magazine "Inspire."

Wanted to terrorise America

"He wanted to terrorise this country. He wanted to punish America for what it was doing to his people," assistant US attorney Aloke Chakravarty told the court in an emotional closing statement on Monday.

"That day they felt they were soldiers, that they were mujahideen and they were bringing their battle to Boston," added Chakravarty.

The court heard Tsarnaev was a marijuana-smoking, seemingly laid-back student who had failed a number of exams and become an avid reader of the Islamist literature that investigators found on his computer.

The prosecution said he was self-radicalised as early as high school and was captivated by the teachings of US-Yemen cleric Anwar al-Awlaki, who was killed in a drone strike in 2011.

They emphasised the appalling injuries that killed eight-year-old Richard, Krystle Campbell, 29, and Lingzi Lu, 23, and the murder of Collier, who was shot five times.

"His entire body was shattered, broken, eviscerated, burnt. There wasn't a part of his body that wasn't destroyed," said Chakravarty of Martin.

‘Stress free kind of guy’

Minutes later, Tsarnaev casually bought milk, then headed to the gym, laughing and joking with friends and posting a message on Twitter calling himself a "stress free kind of guy," prosecutors said.

Defence lawyer Judy Clarke, who has saved some of America's most notorious convicts from the death penalty, said Tsarnaev deserved to be condemned but that the attacks would never have happened without Tamerlan.

"For this suffering, destruction and profound loss there is no excuse. No one is trying to make one," she said on Monday.

But "my thought is that it really doesn't matter," Leo Fonseca, a survivor of the blasts who lost his hearing, told Time. "I feel that either is too good for him, and that regardless of whatever the punishment is, it will never undo all of the damage that he and his brother caused."

Read more on:    dzokhar tsarnaev  |  us  |  boston bombings

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