Guilty verdict reached in Boston bombing trial

Ann O’Neill and Catherine E. Shoichet, CNN

Tsarnaev guilty of all 30 counts in Boston bombing

  • Jurors in the Boston Marathon bombing trial have found Dzhokhar Tsarnaev guilty of all 30 counts, including 17 that carry a possible penalty of death.
  • The trial will next move into a penalty phase, where the jury will be tasked with deciding whether he gets the death penalty.
  • That’s what federal prosecutors are now focusing on, said Carmen Ortiz, the U.S. Attorney for the District of Massachusetts. “We are gratified by the jury’s verdict and thank everyone who played a role in the trial for their hard work,” Oritz said, declining to comment further.
  • Survivors of the bombing said they were relieved by Wednesday’s verdict. “Obviously we are grateful for the outcome today,” bombing survivor Karen Brassard said after the verdict was announced. “It’s not a happy occasion, but it’s something that we can put one more step behind us.”
  • The family of Sean Collier, the MIT police officer killed by the Tsarnaev brothers in the days after the 2013 Boston Marathon bombing, said the siblings were terrorists who “monumentally failed” at striking fear in people. “While today’s verdict can never bring Sean back, we are thankful that Dzhokhar Tsarnaev will be held accountable for the evil that he brought to so many families,” the Collier family said in a written statement.

Full story:

The bombs Dzhokhar Tsarnaev planted with his brother at the Boston Marathon killed three people, wounded more than 250 and left a scarred city searching for answers.

On Wednesday, nearly two years later, a jury weighed in with a decisive verdict, finding Tsarnaev guilty of all 30 counts that he faced in the deadly bombings and their aftermath.

The highly anticipated decision came after 11½ hours of deliberations.

Tsarnaev, 21, stood with his head bowed and his hands clasped as the verdict was read.

Victims and their families looked on, leaning forward to hear.

“Obviously we are grateful for the outcome today,” bombing survivor Karen Brassard said after the verdict was announced. “It’s not a happy occasion, but it’s something that we can put one more step behind us.”

Jeff Bauman, who lost his legs in the bombing, said he was relieved.

“Nothing can ever replace the lives that were lost or changed forever,” Bauman said in a statement, “but at least there is some relief in knowing that justice is served and responsibility will be taken.”

Jurors found that Tsarnaev was responsible for killing the three people who died from the marathon bombings — Krystle Campbell, Lingzi Lu and Martin Richard. He was also responsible for the shooting death of MIT police officer Sean Collier three days after the marathon blasts, the jurors said.

Seventeen of Tsarnaev’s convictions are capital charges, meaning he’s eligible for the death penalty.

A look at all of the charges

The trial will next move into a penalty phase, where the jury will hear testimony and arguments from both sides and ultimately be tasked with deciding whether he gets the death penalty or life in prison.

Tsarnaev’s attorney, Judy Clarke, is one of the nation’s foremost experts on keeping clients off death row.

She has successfully fought for the lives of Ted Kaczynski, aka the Unabomber, and Jared Loughner, the gunman who killed a judge and wounded former U.S. Rep. Gabrielle Giffords.

For weeks, Clarke has been laying the groundwork for her argument to persuade the jury to spare Tsarnaev’s life.

But a date for the penalty phase of the trial has not yet been set.

Two questions from jury

Before announcing they had reached a verdict, jurors asked two questions that were answered in court Wednesday morning.

The jury asked whether a conspiracy can pertain to either a sequence of events or a single event.

“Conspiracy is an agreement between two people to commit unlawful acts,” U.S. District Judge George O’Toole replied. “The scope of a conspiracy and the duration of a conspiracy are questions of fact for you to determine.”

The second question was about the difference between aiding and abetting. The judge said aiding and abetting is a single concept, and that to aid and abet is to help someone intentionally commit a criminal offense.

A wrenching case

Although there had been doubts that Tsarnaev could receive a fair trial in Boston, the case moved quickly and smoothly once testimony began on March 5. Some 96 witnesses testified over 15 court days: 92 for the prosecution and four for the defense.

The defense all but conceded guilt during this part of the trial, choosing instead to focus its efforts on persuading the jury during the penalty phase to spare Tsarnaev’s life.

The low-key strategy played in stark contrast to the emotionally wrenching case put on by prosecutors, who displayed videos and photographs of the dead, the dying and the maimed along Boylston Street.

Jurors saw graphic scenes of a street awash in blood and severed limbs and the dazed, traumatized expressions on people’s faces. They heard screams and moans. It looked like a war zone, several witnesses said.

Other witnesses described how deafening and disorienting it was to have a bomb go off nearby. Some survivors said they could see people screaming but could not hear them. They felt like they were underwater as the surreal events unfolded around them. Several said they felt nauseated by the “vile” stench of gunpowder and burning hair and flesh.

The jury heard a young woman, now in college, describe how it felt to nearly die; Sydney Corcoran said she felt cold, but peaceful as the blood drained from her body.

Survivors react to the verdict

As they viewed a video shot by spectator Colton Kilgore, jurors could hear the cries of a 5-year-old boy. They saw his mother’s bones protruding from her leg and shredded hand as she reached for him. Others in the background were scrambling to apply tourniquets.

“My bones were laying [sic] next to me on the sidewalk,” said Rebekah Gregory. “That’s the day I thought I was going to die.”

They heard the urgent voices of spectators suddenly turned into first responders. Tourniquets were quickly fashioned from belts and running clothes brought by the armload from Marathon Sports, a store near the first bomb site along Boylston Street.

Witnesses described the agonizing decisions they made about whom they could help and who was beyond saving. Shane O’Hara, the manager of Marathon Sports, said the day still haunts him.

“All you heard were sirens, cries and screams,” he said. “The thing that haunts me is making decisions — who needed help first, who needed more, who was more injured than the other one. I felt it wasn’t my role to make those decisions, but you have to do that.”

O’Toole told jurors he was sorry they had to view such gruesome images, but urged them to view them clinically, as evidence. He said they were necessary to show what happened.

‘He wanted to punish America’

Prosecutors said Tamerlan and Dzhokhar Tsarnaev steeped themselves in writings and lectures of top al Qaeda leaders who urged young men to avenge injustice to Muslims by waging holy war against the enemies of Islam, including the United States.

The militant literature promised paradise and other awards to any warrior who died as a martyr for jihad.

The plan to bomb the marathon was hatched a year earlier, prosecutors alleged. The brothers chose the event because “all eyes would be on Boston that day,” Assistant U.S. Attorney Aloke Chakravarty said.

“He chose a day where there would be civilians on the sidewalks. And he and his brother targeted those civilians — men, women and children — because he wanted to make a point. He wanted to terrorize this country. He wanted to punish America for what it was doing to his people.”

The brothers took their war from an 800-square-foot apartment in Cambridge to Boston’s Boylston Street shortly before 3 p.m. on Monday, April 15, 2013.

“That day they felt like they were soldiers,” Chakravary said. “They were the mujahedeen.”

The videos showed the brothers carrying the bombs in backpacks and moving through the crowd near the marathon finish line. It was, the prosecutor said, “a coordinated attack.”

Tamerlan Tsarnaev set off the first bomb near Marathon Sports, according to testimony. The 6-quart pressure cooker contained gunpowder, nails and BBs and was sealed with duct tape.

It took the life of Krystle Campbell, a 29-year-old restaurant manager, and the legs of several other people.

Who were the victims?

The second pressure cooker bomb, carried in by Dzhokhar Tsarnaev, went off 12 seconds later in front of the Forum restaurant. That bomb killed two people — Martin Richard, 8, and Lingzi Lu, 23, a graduate student from China.

Surveillance video shows Dzhokhar Tsarnaev, wearing a turned-around white ball cap, lingering for four minutes by a tree. He slips his backpack off his shoulder. In front of him, a row of children, including Martin Richard, stands behind a metal barricade.

“These children weren’t innocent to him,” Chakravarty told jurors. “They were American. He knew what the bag was designed to do.”

Martin was torn apart by the blast, and his sister, Jane, lost a leg. Their father, Bill Richard, testified that he immediately knew his son would not survived his injuries, and focused on getting help for Jane.

“I saw a little boy who had his body severely damaged by an explosion,” Richard testified. He paused, adding, “This is difficult. I just knew from what I saw that there was no chance. The color of his skin, and so on. I knew in my head that I needed to act quickly or we might not only lose Martin, we might lose Jane, too.”

Lu flailed her arms and screamed before bleeding to death in the street. Her leg was shredded from her ankle to her hip.

What’s next for Tsarnaev?

Defense: He followed his brother’s lead

The defense disputes little about what happened and instead focused on why it happened. Lead defense attorney Judy Clarke all but conceded that Tsarnaev is guilty, and has focused instead on persuading jurors to spare him from the death penalty in the trial’s next phase.

Clarke disputed the prosecutors’ arguments that their client was bent on becoming a holy warrior, although she acknowledged the horror the bombs caused and said her client’s actions were “inexcusable.”

“For this destruction, suffering and profound loss, there is no excuse,” she said. “No one is trying to make one. Planting bombs at the Boston Marathon one year and 51 weeks ago was a senseless act.”

She asked jurors to keep their minds open to what is to come — a case based heavily on the Tsarnaev family’s troubled history and the control and influence Tamerlan Tsarnaev held over his younger brother. Tamerlan was the mastermind of the bomb plot, Clarke said. He bought the pressure cookers and built the bombs. He researched the marathon as a possible event to attack. He shot and killed Officer Sean Collier at MIT.

Jahar merely followed his lead, she said.

“It was Tamerlan,” Clarke said, over and over in her closing argument to the jury.

Tamerlan downloaded the jihadist material urging young men to wage holy war against the infidels while Jahar spent most of his time on Facebook, Clarke said.

“He was a kid doing kid things.”

But prosecutors insisted the brothers were “partners in crime,” working together to punish Americans for what they perceived as crimes against Muslims.

“He wanted to terrorize this country,” said Chakravartay. “He wanted to punish America for what it was doing to his people. And that’s what he did.”

“Tamerlan Tsarnaev didn’t turn his brother into a murderer,” said another prosecutor, Assistant U.S. Attorney William Weinreb. “If you are capable of such hate, such callousness that you can murder and maim 20 people and then drive to Whole Foods and buy some milk, can you really blame it on your brother?”

Prosecutors point to writing inside boat

Prosecutors used computer searches to show that both brothers were steeped in jihadist writings and lectures. They acted calmly and with purpose, believing they were right, Chakravarty said.

He also told jurors they had to look no futher than Tsarnaev’s manifesto, written with a pencil on the side of a boat where he hid during the manhunt. It showed, more than anything else, how he had adopted the beliefs of the jihadists as his own.

“In that boat, with helicopters overhead and sirens blaring, he chose to write something to the American people,” the prosecutor said, adding he probably believed he was spending his final moments on Earth.

“In that boat, when the helicopters were overhead, the sirens were blaring, there were police canvassing, looking for him, he was all alone, and in his voice he chose to write something to the American people,” Chakravarty said.

He wrote in the first person. He was an “I,” not a “we.”

The prosecutor displayed a photograph of the writing on the sides of a boat pocked by bullets and streaked with Tsarnaev’s blood, and read the manifesto in its entirety.

Some key portions:

“I am jealous of my brother who has received the reward of (paradise.) … I do not mourn because his soul is very much alive. God has a plan for each person. Mine was to hide in this boat and shed some light on our actions.”

He asked God to make him a martyr so he could “be among all the righteous people in the highest levels of heaven.”

Then he lashed out against America:

“The U.S. government is killing our innocent civilians, but most of you already know that. As a Muslim, I can’t stand to see such evil go unpunished. We Muslims are one body. You hurt one, you hurt us all.”

He wrote that the Muslim nation is beginning to rise, along with the soldiers of the holy war. “Know that you are fighting men who look into the barrel of your gun and see heaven. Now, how can you compete with that? We are promised victory and we will surely get it. Now I don’t like killing innocent people. It is forbidden in Islam. But due to (bullet hole), it is allowed.”

He was not yet finished. He carved another message into a wooden slat inside the boat: “Stop killing our people and we will stop.”

Chakravarty said Tsarnaev wanted to be “a terrorist hero.” He was making a statement. He was proud of the choices he made.

And, while he hid in that boat and the police closed in on him, the prosecutor said, Tsarnaev “was negotiating the terms of death with the people of America.”


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