Defence to begin arguments to spare Boston bomber's life
28 April 2015, 07:45
Boston - Defence lawyers will begin to present their case
on Monday that a jury should sentence convicted Boston Marathon bomber Dzokhar
Tsarnaev to life in prison rather than death, as the trial enters a new and
Tsarnaev, a 21-year-old ethnic Chechen, was found guilty
early this month of killing three people and injuring 264 in one of the
highest-profile attacks on US soil since September 11 2001, as well as fatally
shooting a police officer.
During the initial stage of his trial, prosecutors
portrayed him as an extremist who wanted to "punish America" for
military campaigns in Muslim-dominated countries and who followed a blueprint
from al-Qaeda's "Inspire" magazine to build the home-made
pressure-cooker bombs that ripped through crowds of spectators, volunteers and
athletes on April 15 2013.
Defence lawyers have countered that Tsarnaev, 19 at the
time of the attack, was adrift and following the lead of his 26-year-old
brother, Tamerlan, who died after a gunfight with police four days after the
One of his lead attorneys, Judith Clarke, opened the
trial with the blunt admission that "it was him", Tsarnaev, who
committed all the crimes he was charged with.
But she closed the guilt phase by arguing that, when it
came to planning the attack and building the bombs, "Tamerlan did that”.
The death penalty remains highly controversial in
Massachusetts, where state law does not allow the punishment to be applied,
though Tsarnaev could face it because he is on trial in federal court.
A Boston Globe survey released on Monday found that just
19% of Massachusetts residents support the idea of putting Tsarnaev to death,
fewer than the 30% who support the death penalty for "heinous"
The poll of 804 people conducted April 22 and 23 has a
margin of error of 3.5% points.
In sharp contrast to the last phase of the trial, when
the defence took just two days to call four witnesses, the court has scheduled
about two weeks’ worth of testimony as Tsarnaev's lawyers make the case to
spare his life.
Few details are known about who defence lawyers will call
to testify as all witness lists in this trial have been filed under seal.
Some members of Tsarnaev's family have arrived in Boston
but have been kept under tight guard at an area hotel, according to local
It is not clear exactly which members of his family travelled
to Boston, and whether they will testify or simply observe the proceedings.
Another unanswered question is whether Tsarnaev will
speak in his own defence. He has been a quiet presence during the trial,
offering no signs of emotion as the jury heard sometimes tearful testimony from
survivors and viewed graphic, disturbing images of the bombs' detonation and
Martin Richard, 8, Chinese exchange student Lu Lingzi,
23, and restaurant manager Krystle Campbell, 29, died in the bombing.
The Tsarnaev brothers shot dead Massachusetts Institute
of Technology police officer Sean Collier three days later.