By Scott Malone, Elizabeth Barber and Richard Valdmanis
BOSTON (Reuters) – Dzhokhar Tsarnaev was found guilty on Wednesday of the 2013 Boston Marathon bombing that killed three people and injured 264 others, and the jury will now decide whether to sentence him to death.
Tsarnaev, 21, is the surviving member of pair of ethnic Chechen brothers who planted the homemade pressure-cooker bombs that tore through the crowd at the famed race’s finish line in one of the most shocking attacks on U.S. soil since Sept. 11, 2001. He left a note behind describing the attack as an act of retribution for U.S. military campaigns in Muslim-dominated countries.
His lawyers opened Tsarnaev’s federal trial in Boston a month ago by bluntly admitting “it was him” who planted one of the bombs on April 15, 2013 and three days later shot dead a police officer, kicking off a day of chaos in Boston.
After 11 hours of deliberations over two days, the jury found him guilty of all 30 criminal counts he faced.
The slightly built, lightly goateed defendant stood silently, shifting uncomfortably as a U.S. District court official read out each guilty finding, a process that took 25 minutes.
The courtroom was packed with survivors of the attack including the parents of 8-year-old Martin Richard, the youngest fatality, and law enforcement officials, including former Boston Police Commissioner Ed Davis.
After the verdict was read, Karen Brassard, whose left leg was badly injured by one of the bombs, said she was glad that Tsarnaev had shown no emotion.
“Personally I wouldn’t have bought it if he had,” Brassard said, as an early-spring sleet fell over Boston’s waterfront. “He has been, to use my word, arrogant walking in and out of the courtroom.”
The blasts killed restaurant manager Krystle Campbell, 29, Chinese exchange student Lingzi Lu, 23, and Richard. Tsarnaev also was found guilty of the fatal shooting of Massachusetts of Institute of Technology police officer Sean Collier, 26.
LIFE OR DEATH?
With Tsarnaev’s guilt established, the trial now moves into a second phase where prosecutors and defense attorneys will call another round of witnesses. The jury will decide whether to sentence him to death or life in prison without possibility of parole. That phase begins next week.
Tsarnaev’s lawyers have indicated that they plan to show that his 26-year-old brother Tamerlan was the driving force behind the attack, a contention they hope will persuade the jury to spare his life.
In a stark contrast to defense attorney Judith Clarke’s opening-statement admission of Tsarnaev’s guilt in placing the bombs, she turned her attention during last week’s closing argument to the making of the bombs.
“Tamerlan did that,” Clarke said, contending that without the older brother there would have been no attack. Tamerlan died early on April 19, 2013, after Dzhokhar ran him over with a car while fleeing a gunfight with police.
The amount of time spent in the jury room suggests the jurors were thorough in considering the charges, said David Weinstein, an attorney in private practice who in prior jobs as a state and local prosecutor brought death-penalty cases.
“If this was a fait accompli, they would have been out in the amount of time it takes to shuffle through 30 pieces of paper,” Weinstein said. “Sentencing deliberations are likely to take longer.
Federal prosecutors detailed jihadi writings, including a copy of al Qaeda’s “Inspire” magazine with an article on bomb-making found on of Tsarnaev’s computers, describing that as evidence that he was an extremist who wanted to “punish America.”
“We are gratified by the jury’s verdict,” said Carmen Ortiz, U.S. attorney for Massachusetts, who oversaw the prosecution. “As we enter this next phase, we are focused on the work that remains to be done.”
DARK MEMORIES FOR BOSTON
The trial, which began in early March after a two-month jury selection process, dredged up some of the worst memories in living memory in Boston. The twin pressure-cooker bombs ripped through the crowd of spectators at the race’s finish line, setting off a mad rush to save the hundreds of people wounded, 17 of whom lost limbs.
Three days later, the Federal Bureau of Investigation released images of the Tsarnaev brothers, saying they were the suspected bombers and seeking information on their identities. That set the stage for 24 hours of chaos as the duo fatally shot Collier in an unsuccessful attempt to steal his gun and went on to carjack a Chinese entrepreneur before police found them in the suburb of Watertown.
The pair fought a desperate gunfight with police, throwing a smaller pressure-cooker bomb similar to the ones they used at the race, as well as smaller pipe bombs. When Tamerlan Tsarnaev ran out of bullets in the rusty Ruger handgun his brother had borrowed from a drug-dealing friend, he charged Watertown police officers who were trying to wrestle him to the ground. Dzhokhar then hopped into the carjacked Mercedes SUV and sped toward the group, running over his brother and dragging him.
The city’s mayor, Marty Walsh, said he was glad to see the trial moving toward a conclusion.
“I am thankful that this phase of the trial has come to an end and am hopeful for a swift sentencing process,” Walsh said. “I hope today’s verdict provides a small amount of closure for the survivors, families, and all impacted by the violent andtragic events.”
(Additional reporting by Tim McLaughlin; Editing by Jonathan Oatis)