In a photo never before made public and taken just before his 2013 arraignment for the Boston Marathon bombings, a 19-year-old Dzhokhar Tsarnaev stands in a federal courtroom holding cell, looking directly into the surveillance camera and defiantly flashing his long, thin middle finger.
Prosecutors used the startling image Tuesday at the start of the penalty phase of Tsarnaev’s capital murder trial to convince jurors that the Russian immigrant remains defiant and unremorseful, and should pay with his life for the April 2013 bombings.
They contrasted the image of an angry Tsarnaev with family portraits of the four who died in the bombing and subsequent manhunt, all of them smiling, including 8-year-old Martin Richard. Many in the crowded Boston courtroom were visibly moved by the dueling images -- exactly the reaction the government had hoped for in keeping the Tsarnaev photo under wraps these last two years.
“This is Dzhokhar Tsarnaev,” announced Assistant U.S. Atty. Nadine Pellegrini, unveiling the July 10, 2013, picture, in which he wears a bright-orange jail jumpsuit. “Unconcerned. Unrepentant and unchanged. Without remorse, he remains untouched by the grief and the loss he caused.”
She turned back to the jury and said, “The United States will ask you to return the just and appropriate sentence for Dzhokhar Tsarnaev of death.”
The panel of seven women and five men earlier this month convicted Tsarnaev, now 21, of all 30 counts against him for his role in the worst terrorist attack in the U.S. since Sept. 11, 2001. Three people were killed and more than 260 injured at the marathon, and an MIT officer was shot to death days later as the brothers tried to flee.
In this second and final phase of the trial, the jury must decide whether he dies in an execution chamber or receives life in prison without the possibility of parole.
U.S. District Judge George A. O’Toole Jr. told the jurors that the decision was theirs alone. But he added that a death sentence must be unanimous and come only after the jurors conclude that the aggravating factors in Tsarnaev’s crimes outweigh any mitigating factors the defense brings up, such as his troubled relationship with his older brother, Tamerlan Tsarnaev. The defense contends that Tamerlan, who was killed during an attempt to capture him, was the bombing mastermind.
“Your decision is an individual judgment which the law in the final analysis leaves up to each of you,” the judge told the jury. “It’s for you as fair-minded jurors to decide the verdict in this case.”
The government is expected to wrap up its case by the end of this week, with the defense likely starting Monday.
Pellegrini urged the jury to ignore defense claims that Tsarnaev was afraid of his older brother and merely followed his lead in the bomb plot.
“Tamerlan Tsarnaev is an easy target,” Pellegrini said. “He was an easy target when he lived. He’s an easy target now that he’s dead.”
She also asked the jury not to be swayed by defense claims that Tsarnaev was the product of a broken family.
“You may hear of problems with families,” she told the jurors. “But who among them murders a child? You have to look inward where the fault lies. His cruel character can be found in the way he murdered.”
She said, “He murdered each one of them in a way they had time to feel pain.... And that is the essence of terror.”
Defense lawyers did not give an opening statement in this phase of the case. Prosecutors began presenting tearful testimony from survivors and family members about their suffering.
Celeste Corcoran of Lowell, Mass., lost both of her legs, one below and one from above the knee. She was knocked to the ground and her husband, Kevin, tried to save her legs by strapping them with his belt. “My husband kept saying, ‘This is a terror attack. This is a terror attack. This was a bomb!'”
Gillian Reny of Boston was watching her sister, Danielle, run the marathon. “My leg was almost completely torn apart,” she said. “I was in shock and had nothing to stand on.”
“My body crumpled to the ground," the aspiring dancer said.
William Campbell III, of Bedford, Mass., spoke about his sister Krystle Campbell, a 29-year-old restaurant manager. He said the Campbell family thought she was in surgery, and waited for hours only to learn it was a different victim and that Krystle had died.
Asked what about Campbell he missed the most, he said, “Just being able to talk to her. It’s that simple.”