Brother of Murdered MIT Officer Testifies in Tsarnaev Penalty Phase

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The brother and stepfather of a Massachusetts Institute of Technology police officer slain during the manhunt for the Boston Marthon attackers delivered emotional testimony Wednesday to a jury weighing a death penalty for convicted bomber Dzhokhar Tsarnaev. 

Sean Collier was shot to death by Tsarnaev and his brother, Tamerlan, as they tried to flee the Boston area three days after the bombings. In testimony that came during the penalty phase of Dzhokhar Tsarnaev's trial, Andrew Collier described being in Concord, North Carolina, with his wife Tory when he learned of his brother's death. 

"It's still a huge loss," he said. "It is something that will affect my family for the rest of our lives."

Also testifying was Gary Olivera, a deputy with the U.S. Marshals who saw Tsarnaev give the finger to a security camera in his courtroom jail cell three months after the bombing.

The defense, meanwhile, tried to blunt the impact of the photo, showing the jury video clips of him looking into the camera, apparently fixing his hair in the reflective glass, and then making a slightly angled, two-finger gesture similar to what teenagers often do playfully in selfies. Then he raised his middle finger at the camera.

Jurors were also shown photos Wednesday of Andrew and Sean Collier together when they were young, and from later in life as well. 

Andrew Collier described his brother as a moral compass, and said he always wanted to be a police officer.

"He always chose to do the right thing... down to you can't kill a bug," he said. 

Joe Rogers, Sean Collier's stepfather, also testified Wednesday, saying that Sean's mother was so distraught by his death that she couldn't get out of bed for months. She was diagnosed with post-traumatic stress disorder following the death, he said. 

"Sometimes it still feels like a dream," Rogers said. "It's been a terrible two years."

He said his family still gets together over the holidays, but with Sean missing, it will "never be the same."

Marathon bombing victim Adrienne Haslet-Davis also testified Wednesday. She said that after the first bomb went off, she somehow knew there was another one coming.

"I wrapped my arms around my husband and said, 'The next one's gonna hit, the next one's gonna hit,'" she recalled.

The next thing she knew, she was on the ground. Her husband, Adam, tied a tourniquet around her ravaged left leg, but he couldn't stop screaming.

"My first thought is, he's in shock and I have to save myself," she said.

The professional ballroom dancer crawled through broken glass, dragging her bloody leg along the pavement, shredding her forearms in the process. She made it into a restaurant.

Her husband walked in soon after, then collapsed on the stairs. An artery in his foot was spurting blood, his face grew pale, and his eyes began rolling back in his head, she said.

"I thought he was dying," she said.

He survived; she ended up losing her leg.

Her account - some of the rawest testimony heard to date in the case - came on the second day of the penalty phase of Tsarnaev's trial. The jury that convicted the 21-year-old former college student in the bombing is deciding whether he should get the death penalty.

Three people were killed and more than 260 wounded when Tsarnaev and his older brother, Tamerlan, detonated two pressure-cooker bombs near the finish line of the race on April 15, 2013. Tsarnaev was also convicted in the killing of an MIT police officer as the brothers attempted to flee.

Tsarnaev's lawyers say Tamerlan masterminded the attack and recruited his impressionable younger brother, then 19, to help him. They say his life should be spared.

But prosecutors, seeking to emphasize the brutality of the attack, have called a long list of victims and their families to describe the heartbreaking consequences.

Haslet-Davis sobbed and covered her face with her hand as she described the terrifying aftermath of the bombing. She said she thought her husband was dead and she would be next.

At the hospital, she instinctively told medical personnel what she did for a living as they looked at her leg.

"I just kept screaming that I was a ballroom dancer," she said.

She called her parents to say goodbye.

"I said, 'I've been in a terrorist attack and I don't think I have a foot left anymore, and I'm in really bad shape, and I really need to talk to you, and this might be it,'" she said.

Her husband wasn't in court Wednesday.

"He has bravely admitted himself into a mental facility at the VA hospital," she said.

As she left the witness stand, Haslet-Davis gave a long, furious glare at Tsarnaev. His lawyers leaned in toward him as if to protect him.

The 12-member jury must be unanimous for Tsarnaev to receive a death sentence; otherwise, he will automatically get life behind bars. Prosecutors have argued that Tsarnaev was a full partner with his brother and deserves the ultimate punishment.

Copyright AP - Associated Press
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