Boston Marathon bombing: Jury to deliberate after powerful closing statements

One month after the Boston Marathon bombing trial began, both legal teams left jurors with impassioned final statements to consider during deliberations.

Jane Flavell Collins/AP
In this courtroom sketch, Assistant US Attorney Aloke Chakravarty is depicted pointing to defendant Dzhokhar Tsarnaev during closing arguments in Mr. Tsarnaev's federal death penalty trial Monday in Boston. Tsarnaev is charged with conspiring with his brother to place two bombs near the Boston Marathon finish line in April 2013, killing three and injuring more than 260 people.

The courtroom playing host to the Boston Marathon bombing trial overflowed with spectators Monday, but it reached new depths of silence as both legal teams delivered closing statements.

A month after the trial began – and after hearing testimony from 96 witnesses regarding the April 15, 2013, bombings and their aftermath – the jury will now decide whether to find accused bomber Dzhokhar Tsarnaev guilty of the 30 federal charges leveled against him.

The bombings, which Mr. Tsarnaev is believed to have carried out with his older brother, Tamerlan Tsarnaev, resulted in three deaths and more than 260 injuries. If Dzhokhar Tsarnaev is found guilty, the trial would move to a second phase to determine his punishment: a sentence of death, or life in prison.

Assistant US Attorney Aloke Chakravarty began by focusing on the stark brutality of the bombings.

“The defendant brought terrorism to backyards and Main Street,” he began. “He chose the day when the eyes of the world would be on Boston.”

Mr. Chakravarty then walked the 18-person jury through the past month’s evidence while preemptively poking holes in what was expected to be the main arguments for the defense: that Tamerlan Tsarnaev was the self-radicalized mastermind behind the bombings and Dzhokhar Tsarnaev more of an accomplice.

“The defendant and his brother did this together,” said Chakravarty. “It was a coordinated attack to maximize the terror.”

Throughout his closing statement, Chakravarty was liberal in his use of the word “they,” emphasizing how the brothers worked and acted together.

He repeatedly described the brothers as “partners” and “a team.”

"They made their last stand" in Watertown, he said. "While one was shooting, the other was lighting and throwing the bombs.”

“They were a team, this is how they rolled,” he added.

The climax of Chakravarty’s statement featured a montage of graphic video and still images from the day of the bombings, as well as smiling photos of the victims, set to a “nasheed” – an extremist Islamic hymn found on Tsarnaev’s computer that had been referenced earlier in the trial but never heard.

The courtroom reportedly fell completely silent as the images and music played. The gallery was filled with victims and their families rewatching images from the bombings, while Chakravarty described the injuries suffered by the dead victims.

Lingzi Lu, he said, had her leg “torn open.” Eight-year-old Martin Richard had his body “shattered, broken, eviscerated, burned.”

“There is nothing about this day that was a twist of fate. This was a cold, calculated terrorist attack,” Chakravarty said. “Now is the time to hold him accountable.”

Defense attorney Judy Clarke came next with her own closing statement. While the prosecution’s statement was defined by the use of the word “they,” Ms. Clarke was aggressive in pushing her argument that Tamerlan Tsarnaev played a much more significant role in the bombings than did his younger brother. She mentioned Tamerlan’s name repeatedly, almost compensating for a month of testimony where questions about the brother had been purposefully limited.

“It's important to know who did what, and why it was done,” Clarke told the jury. “We very much disagree on the why.”

The contention that Dzhokhar Tsarnaev was an equal partner in the bombings “is simply not true,” she said.

Clarke then took the jury through streams of past exhibits suggesting Tamerlan Tsarnaev’s enhanced involvement in the bombings. Receipts showed that he bought some of the bomb components online himself; GPS data from cellphones showed that Dzhokhar was in Dartmouth when Tamerlan was buying the pressure cookers over an hour away; Tamerlan’s fingerprints were found all over bomb components in the family apartment in Cambridge, Mass.

“Whose prints are not?” she asked. “Dzhokhar.”

The brothers, she said, were “individual people who thought differently, acted differently, and had a very different role.”

Still, early on in her statement – as she did in her opening statement last month – Clarke didn’t shy away from admitting her client participated in the bombings, describing them as “a senseless act.”

“We are not asking you to excuse the conduct, but let's look at the varying roles,” she added.

“What does any of this matter when we know that Dzhokhar walked down Boylston Street with a bomb in a backpack?” she asked. “It matters because you're entitled to know the full picture.”

"We don't deny that Dzhokhar fully participated in the events,” she said, “but if not for Tamerlan, it would not have happened."

Prosecutor William Weinreb responded with a brief rebuttal, which he used to immediately discredit Clarke’s arguments.

“The defendant might be guilty but his brother is more guilty? That’s not a defense,” said Mr. Weinreb. Tsarnaev, he added, is “trying to avoid full responsibility for what he did.”

Judge George O’Toole began the day spending an hour detailing for the jury the 30 charges against Tsarnaev, and he ended the day describing to them their responsibilities for deliberations, which will begin Tuesday morning.

He warned the jurors to not let their emotions or the sometimes-graphic evidence “override” their rational judgment and consideration of the evidence.

"You said you could be impartial,” he told them. “If I had not trusted your answer, you would not be here today."

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