The next step in the Boston Marathon bombings trial will continue on Monday. Last week the prosecution got to present their case in the penalty phase of the trial. This week the defense will move in and try to persuade the jury that they should give Dzhokhar Tsarnaev life in prison without the possibility of parole, instead of the death penalty. As odds generally rule in favor of a life sentence, rather than an execution sentence, Tsarnaev may not see a ruling for the death penalty, however in the heinous matter of the crime, the jury may decide to impose a sentence for execution, just as the bomber in the Oklahoma City bombings received. As the sentence could still go either way at this point, it will be up to the defense to help the jury find good reasoning in choosing life over death.
In recent months, Dzhokhar Tsarnaev was tried for the Boston Marathon bombings which killed three and injured more than 260 people. The marathon is an event which brings hundreds who expect just a great day of participating or viewing from the sidelines. Instead on April 15, 2013 the Boston Marathon bombings left the event altered, with the city scared and hundreds laying in the street wounded. It was later believed that Dzokhar and his brother Tamerlan were responsible for the Boston Marathon bombings, and as Tamerlan died during police apprehension of the two, Tsarnaev was charged and tried. After a trial started nearly two years after the bombings, the initial phase lasted for months. Tsarnaev was found guilty of 30 counts for his role in the Boston Marathon bombings, 17 of which are eligible for death penalty. As the standard has been set, a vote for death penalty must be a unanimous decision by all jurors.
The prosecution presented 17 witnesses last week, in which photos of the victims were seen and even new videos were released. The newest video, one in which Tsarnaev was seen making an obscene gesture to the camera from his cell, gave the prosecution more evidence to show jurors that Tsarnaev was a hateful, unrepentant “terrorist.” Their statements during the penalty phase, showed Tsarnaev as a person who placed a bomb by children and tried to create as much bloodshed in the Boston Marathon bombings, as possible. They painted the defendant as a cold, heartless, young man whose move to the U.S. made it difficult for him to adjust. They state that as he was responsible for so much terror during the Boston Marathon bombings, that the only option should be to seek the penalty of execution.
As the penalty phase also allows victims to speak freely, their testimony could be just as powerful in the penalty phase as it was in the initial trial, though they are not allowed to suggest life or death. Just as victims, many who are missing limbs, and families of victims discussed their trauma from the Boston Marathon bombings, the same statements show jurors the extent of the damage caused by Tsarnaev’s crime.
When the Boston Marathon bombings trial, penalty phase, begins again on Monday, the defense will begin presenting their side. In trying to guarantee that Tsarnaev gets life in prison, rather than death, for his part in the Boston Marathon bombings, the job for the defense will be trying to portray Tsarnaev as a regular, human being, who really does feel sorry for what he did (due to the prosecution saying he was cold and unrepentant). The defense fights for the fact that Tsarnaev was an ordinary human being, who was moved to the United States, and was recently going through a rough time. Before the Boston Marathon bombings, the defendant had no prior criminal history. He was a college student who was flunking and a teenager who recently had to go through his parent’s divorce, leaving him with his brother as his closest family. The fact that his brother also played a large hand in the Boston Marathon bombings, is another key that the defense will try to use to their advantage. The defense has been working to prove, since the start of the case that Tsarnaev was heavily influenced by his brother and accomplice, Tamerlan.
As the defense can present their case using witnesses, like friends and family, to testify to Tsarnaev’s behavior before the Boston Marathon bombings, the defense plans on bringing in a witness who can testify to Dzhokhar’s relationship with his brother. A statement, “You don’t want to meet my brother,” that Dzhokhar made to a friend could be a strong piece of testimony in his getting life instead of execution. Dzhokhar’s friend said that he felt his brother was very strict and opinionated. Though the prosecution states his actions and attitude are one that do not seem to show an easy way of persuasion, if jurors feel that Dzhokhar’s brother could have possibly convinced him to take part in the Boston Marathon bombings, it may make them choose life in prison with no parole. However, that line of defense did not seem to work in the initial phase of the trial, when Tsarnaev was found guilty of 30 counts.
Judge George O’Toole initially stated that he believed the penalty phase would last about four weeks, taking the trial well into May, before victims will see the end of the painful process. Parents of Martin Richard, the eight-year-old boy who died in the Boston Marathon bombings, recently asked the Department of Justice to remove the death penalty possibility for Tsarnaev, stating that waiting for an execution, if Tsarnaev is given such, will be too painful for victims, as it would drag on the end of the process. Victims of the Boston Marathon bombings only want to see the trial over, so that they no longer have to relive the painful moments. A life in prison without parole sentence may see a bit of relief from victims of the bombings, but an execution, even with a wait, may give victims a sort of finality. As it is up to the jury to decide whether Tsarnaev gets life in prison without the possibility of parole, or death by execution, it is out of the victim’s hands, with the exception of their swaying testimony. The defense will begin its case when the trial for the Boston Marathon bombings continues on Monday.
By Crystal Boulware