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Federal Jury Imposes 6 Sentences Of Death On Tsarnaev04:02Download

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In this courtroom sketch, Dzhokhar Tsarnaev stands with his defense attorneys as a death sentence is read at the Moakley federal courthouse in the penalty phase of his trial in Boston. (Jane Flavell Collins/AP)MoreCloseclosemore
In this courtroom sketch, Dzhokhar Tsarnaev stands with his defense attorneys as a death sentence is read at the Moakley federal courthouse in the penalty phase of his trial in Boston. (Jane Flavell Collins/AP)

A federal jury in Boston on Friday imposed six sentences of death upon convicted Boston Marathon bomber Dzhokhar Tsarnaev.

Tsarnaev and his older brother Tamerlan, both immigrants from Kyrgyzstan, killed three and injured more than 260 people near the finish line of the marathon in 2013, then murdered a police officer several days later.

Over the course of weeks, jurors had heard and seen and cried at the horror of explosions, carnage and screaming, on the finish line sidewalk splashed red. In the first phase of the trial, they had convicted Tsarnaev, the accused jihadist, on all 30 terrorism counts.

In the sentencing phase of the trial, they took only a day and a half to decide that he deserved not life in prison, but death.

"This was not a religious crime and certainly does not reflect true Muslim beliefs," U.S. Attorney Carmen Ortiz said. "It was a political crime designed to intimidate and coerce the United States."

The announcement that a verdict had been reached so quickly brought Tsarnaev’s defense attorney David Bruck back to the courtroom with a grim face. “It’s too soon,” he said, meaning too soon for good news for Tsarnaev.

Jurors walked into court eyes straight ahead. They stood nervously, some swaying, as the jury forewoman handed the verdict slip to the clerk and the clerk proceeded to read it aloud for the next 21 minutes.

The defense had argued that, had there been no Tamerlan Tsarnaev, Dzhokhar Tsarnaev would never have done what he did — that the defendant was in the sway of a charismatic older brother, who implanted jihadi ideology into someone whom friends and teachers in Cambridge remembered as a sweet, respectful, well-liked teenager.
But the defense argument was soundly rejected by the jurors, who made it clear that they saw little reason for imposing the lesser sentence of life in prison.

The climax came in minute No. 20, when the jurors imposed the death penalty for six of 17 eligible counts.

Relatives of some of the victims sat in the subdued courtroom, including Liz Norden, the mother of two sons who lost both their right legs and their livelihood as roofers.

Liz Norden, whose two sons each lost a leg in the attack, speaks to media outside the courthouse and receives support from first responder Mike Ward. (Stephan Savoia/AP)
Liz Norden, whose two sons each lost a leg in the attack, speaks to media outside the courthouse and receives support from first responder Mike Ward. (Stephan Savoia/AP)

"I have to watch my two sons put a leg on every day," Norden said outside the courthouse afterward. "I don't know closure, but I can tell you it feels like a weight has been lifted off my shoulders. So I think there is some form of a good feeling."

But if the families of two other victims wanted the death penalty, they were disappointed. The jurors did not choose the harshest penalty for the death of the woman killed by the bomb planted by the older brother Tamerlan, which went off first.

And they did not impose death for the counts involving the point-blank execution of a young MIT police officer by the two brothers several days after the bombings.

In one last act of desperation, the defense called for and got an individual polling of the jurors. Twelve clear calls of "yes" followed, and then several of the jurors, men and women, including the forewoman, broke down.

Outside, firefighter Michael Ward, one of the first responders on the day of the marathon bombing, voiced the sentiment of those who had called for the death penalty.

"Oh, he's going to hell," Ward said. "That's where he wanted to go. But he's going to get there quicker than he thought."

According to federal death penalty statistics, it won't be that early, but perhaps years, if at all. An appeal is automatic.

As for the defendant, he was inscrutable, appearing impassive and indifferent. That was how he looked almost every day of the trial, which may have led to the jurors' conclusion that he demonstrated no remorse.

This segment aired on May 16, 2015.

David Boeri Twitter Senior Reporter
David Boeri is a senior reporter at WBUR.

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