Boston Marathon case defence begins

Published: Tuesday 31st March 2015 by The News Editor

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The defence case started in the trial of Boston Marathon bomber Dzhokhar Tsarnaev, as his lawyers tried to show his older brother masterminded the plan to detonate pressure-cooker bombs near the finish line.

Prosecutors rested their case against Tsarnaev yesterday after jurors in his death penalty trial saw gruesome post-mortem photos and heard a medical examiner describe the devastating injuries suffered by an eight-year-old boy killed in the 2013 terror attack.

One of the first witnesses called by the defence was a data analyst who said Tsarnaev’s mobile phone was being used in south-eastern Massachusetts – where he was attending college – while pressure cookers were being purchased north of Boston more than two months before the bombing.

The analyst also testified that large quantities of BBs were purchased a little over a month before the attack in two Wal-Mart stores in New Hampshire, at a time when Tsarnaev’s mobile phone was again being used near UMass-Dartmouth.

The defence made it clear from the first day of testimony on March 4 – when his lawyer admitted he participated in the bombings – their strategy is not to win an acquittal but to save Tsarnaev from the death penalty by arguing that his brother, Tamerlan, was largely responsible for the bombings.

Prosecutors ended their case on an emotional note. At least three jurors cried and wiped their eyes with tissues as they looked at photos of eight-year-old Martin Richard, who went to watch the marathon with his parents and siblings, and was killed when the second of two bombs exploded near the finish line.

Martin’s parents watched from the second row of the courtroom. Bill Richard kept his arm around the shoulder of his wife, Denise, throughout the testimony.

Two other people were killed and more than 260 were injured in the bombings. Prosecutors believe the brothers were seeking retaliation against the US for wars in Muslim countries.

The first defence witness was Michelle Gamble, an FBI field photographer who testified earlier yesterday for prosecutors, describing various photos and a video showing the scene of the second blast both before and shortly after the explosions.

In one of the photos, Martin Richard, his sister and several other children stand on a metal barricade. Tsarnaev appears to be just a few feet behind Martin and his sister.

While cross-examining Ms Gamble, Tsarnaev’s lawyers showed other photographs with several people in between Tsarnaev and the children, an apparent attempt to show that Tsarnaev did not purposefully target them with the bomb.

During their case, prosecutors presented heart-wrenching testimony from survivors who lost legs in the bombings. A string of emergency responders described a chaotic mix of smoke, blood and screams just after the bombs went off.

The defence will try to show that Tamerlan Tsarnaev was more culpable in the attack and in the killing three days later of Massachusetts Institute of Technology police Officer Sean Collier.

The defence case is expected to be relatively short. Once that is complete, jurors will deliberate on whether Tsarnaev is guilty of the 30 charges against him related to the bombing, the killing of Mr Collier and a violent confrontation with police in Watertown.

Tamerlan Tsarnaev, 26, was killed during the Watertown confrontation. Dzhokhar Tsarnaev, then 19, was found more than 18 hours later hiding in a boat parked in a yard.

If the jury convicts Tsarnaev – an event that may be a foregone conclusion because of his admitted guilt – the trial will move on to the second phase, when the same jury will hear more evidence to decide whether he should be put to death or should spend the rest of his life in prison.

Published: Tuesday 31st March 2015 by The News Editor

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