BOSTON — After 11 hours of deliberations over two days, a federal jury on Wednesday found Dzhokhar Tsarnaev, a failing college student and the youngest child in a dispersed immigrant family, guilty of the 2013 bombings at the Boston Marathon, the worst act of terrorism on American soil since the attacks of Sept. 11, 2001.
The bombings almost two years ago transformed one of the world’s most prestigious road races on a glorious spring afternoon into a scene of carnage with bodies strewn across Boylston Street, giving the nation a horrifying glimpse into the consequences of homegrown, self-taught terrorism. The bombs, planted in retaliation for American-led wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, killed three spectators, blew the limbs off 17 others and wounded 240 more, leaving many with life-altering injuries.
The courtroom was packed with survivors and victims’ families, many of whom had testified against him.
There was little doubt that the jury would find Mr. Tsarnaev, 21, guilty of most charges; his lawyers have admitted that he had been involved in the bombings, and they put on a minimal defense, calling four witnesses who testified for five hours. The government, by contrast, called 92 witnesses over 15 days.
Still, in the first phase of the trial, the defense laid the groundwork for the sentencing phase, casting their client as subordinate to his older brother, Tamerlan, and less culpable for the crimes. The defense team’s goal now is to explain mitigating factors in hopes that jurors will sentence Mr. Tsarnaev to life in prison.
After the verdict was read, the judge, George O’Toole Jr. of Federal District Court here, told the jurors that the case would now proceed to a second, penalty phase that could begin as early as next week.
He cautioned the jurors that they were still “an active jury, subject to your oath,” and to not discuss the case with anyone.
Prosecutors said that Mr. Tsarnaev, then 19, was a full and equal partner with his older brother, Tamerlan, 26, in carrying out the attack. Dzhokhar, repeatedly faced with choices, never went back on the plan, prosecutors said, even when Tamerlan was not around. This was especially evident when Dzhokhar was hiding in a boat by himself and scrawled jihadist messages. “These were deliberate choices, these were political choices,” Aloke Chakravarty, an assistant United States attorney, told the jurors in his closing arguments on Monday. “An eye for eye, you kill us, we kill you, that’s what he said and that’s what he did.”
The defense, while conceding Mr. Tsarnaev’s involvement, cast him as a misguided adolescent led by the domineering and malevolent Tamerlan, who was obsessed with violent jihad and who died after a shootout with police.
“We don’t deny that Jahar fully participated in the events,” Judy Clarke, the lead defense lawyer, told the jury in her closing arguments, using his Americanized nickname. “But if not for Tamerlan, it would not have happened.”
Still, she never pretended that Dzhokhar was not guilty, and all but asked for a guilty verdict in her closing. “When you go back to the jury room, we’re not asking you to go easy on Jahar,” she said. “The horrific acts that we’ve heard about, the death, destruction and devastation that we’ve heard about, deserve to be condemned, and the time is now.”
But she did ask jurors to keep their minds open in the sentencing phase. At that point, the defense is expected to put on a far more aggressive case in pursuit of its single goal — to persuade the jury to sentence Mr. Tsarnaev to life, not death.
The defense hopes to present mitigating circumstances that show him as less culpable than his brother. It will flesh out details of Mr. Tsarnaev’s life and family history, which includes his forebears being expelled by Stalin from Chechnya in 1944 and ending up in Kyrgyzstan. His family settled in Cambridge, Mass., in 2002. As his parents divorced and returned to Russia, Mr. Tsarnaev, who became an American citizen on Sept. 11, 2012, fell increasingly under the sway of his older brother.
Just as defense lawyers seek to impress the jurors with the reasons they should spare Dzhokhar Tsarnaev’s life, the prosecution will impress upon them the consequences of his murderous actions. Survivors of the blasts and the families of victims are expected to testify in this next phase, as they did in the first, but this time detailing the physical and emotional effects of the bomb blasts on their lives. Others are expected to discuss how the crime gripped the Boston region in fear for five days.
On Monday, April 15, 2013, the Tsarnaev brothers set off two pressure-cooker bombs near the finish line of the marathon. The first bomb, set by Tamerlan, killed Krystle Campbell, 29, a restaurant manager who was watching her boyfriend run the marathon. The second bomb, set by Dzhokhar, killed Lu Lingzi, 23, a graduate student from China studying at Boston University, and Martin Richard, 8, who was watching the race with his family; his younger sister, Jane, lost a leg.
The explosions created utter chaos and turned the medical tents into triage centers; as the police, medical workers and bystanders tended to the wounded, the brothers vanished into the crowds and reabsorbed themselves in their daily routines. Dzhokhar, a student at the University of Massachusetts Dartmouth, casually bought a half-gallon of milk at a Whole Foods 23 minutes after the bombing. He later returned to campus, hung out with his friends and went to the gym.
Along the way, according to prosecutors, they killed Sean Collier, 27, an M.I.T. police officer, in an unsuccessful attempt to steal his gun, shooting him in the head at point-blank range, twice in the side of the head and once between the eyes.
At this point, they realized they needed to ditch their car and drive a different one to New York so they would not be detected. So they carjacked Dun Meng, 28, a Chinese citizen who worked in Cambridge’s Kendall Square, in his Mercedes-Benz S.U.V. They made him withdraw cash from an A.T.M. But as the brothers were momentarily distracted while getting gas for the trip to New York, Mr. Meng escaped and called the police.
In the wee hours of Friday morning, a huge manhunt began. If not for the GPS device in Mr. Meng’s Mercedes, the authorities might never have caught up with the brothers.
But they tracked them to a residential street in suburban Watertown, where a firefight ensued with the brothers throwing pipe bombs and another pressure-cooker bomb at the police; more than 2,500 law enforcement officers, many of them “self-deployed,” converged on the scene. Shrapnel rained down on the quiet suburban street and lodged in houses.
Tamerlan was wounded and ran out of ammunition. Several officers tackled him as Dzhokhar jumped in the Mercedes and started speeding toward the officers, as if to mow them down, they testified; in the process, he ran over his brother. Tamerlan’s body got stuck in the undercarriage of the Mercedes and was dragged about 50 feet; his body was finally dislodged when Dzhokhar sideswiped a police car.
Dzhokhar escaped in the Mercedes. A new report by state officials said that so many police cars had clogged the narrow residential streets that officers were unable to give chase. Residents in Boston and several suburbs were ordered to “shelter in place” while riot-outfitted police swept houses. Dzhokhar eventually was captured in a dry-docked boat in a suburban backyard, emerging bloodied and dazed.
Inside the boat, riddled with more than 100 bullet holes, he had scrawled several jihadist passages. “The U.S. Government is killing our innocent civilians but most of you already know that,” read one. “I can’t stand to see such evil go unpunished. We Muslims are one body, you hurt one you hurt us all.”
Source: NY Times