"It WAS Him": Lawyer Admits Tsarnaev's Role in Bombing - NECN
Tsarnaev Trial

Tsarnaev Trial

Boston Marathon bomber Dzhokhar Tsarnaev has been sentenced to death

"It WAS Him": Lawyer Admits Tsarnaev's Role in Bombing

Three people were killed and more than 260 were hurt when twin bombs exploded near the finish line seconds apart on April 15, 2013



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    The question, for all practical purposes, is no longer whether Dzhokhar Tsarnaev took part in the Boston Marathon bombing. It's whether he deserves to die for it.

    In a startling opening statement at the nation's biggest terrorism trial in nearly 20 years, Tsarnaev's own lawyer told a jury that the 21-year-old former college student committed the crime.

    "It WAS him," said defense attorney Judy Clarke, one of the nation's foremost death-penalty specialists.

    But in a strategy aimed at saving Tsarnaev from a death sentence, she argued that he had fallen under the malevolent influence of his now-dead older brother, Tamerlan.
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    "The evidence will not establish and we will not argue that Tamerlan put a gun to Dzhokhar's head or that he forced him to join in the plan," Clarke said, "but you will hear evidence about the kind of influence that this older brother had."

    The court heard emotional testimony from four survivors of the attack, who took the stand, recounting the horror of that day.

    Nineteen-year-old Sydney Corcoran was at the marathon with her parents cheering on her aunt who was running, when she was injured in the first blast.

    "I remember thinking, 'this is it, I'm going to die, I'm not going to make it, I felt like I was going to sleep,'" said Cocoran. "I remember a man putting his forehead to mine, telling me I was going to be OK & I just needed to hold on."

    Another survivor, Rebekah Gregory, who now has a prosthetic left leg, described how she was blown to the ground, as she searched frantically for her 5-year-old son, Noah.

    "My bones were literally laying next to me on the sidewalk," she said. "At that point, I thought that was the day I would die."

    Survivor Karen Rand McWatters, friend of victim Krystle Campbell, said she knew they were both injured but didn't realize how badly they were hurt.

    McWaters said in court that she dragged herself over to Campbell.

    "We put out faces together and tried to talk to each other," she said. "Krystle very slowly said, 'my legs hurt,' and then her hand went limp in mine and she never said another word."

    Federal prosecutors, meanwhile, used their opening statements - along with the chilling testimony and grisly video - to sketch a picture of torn limbs, screams and the smell of sulfur and burned hair in the streets and to paint Tsarnaev as a cold-blooded killer.

    Images From Boston Marathon Bombing TrialImages From Boston Marathon Bombing Trial

    Tsarnaev planted a bomb designed to "tear people apart and create a bloody spectacle," then hung out with his college buddies as if he didn't have a care in the world, federal prosecutor William Weinreb said.

    "He believed that he was a soldier in a holy war against Americans," Weinreb said. "He also believed that by winning that victory, he had taken a step toward reaching paradise. That was his motive for committing these crimes."

    Three people were killed and more than 260 hurt when two shrapnel-packed pressure-cooker bombs exploded near the finish line on April 15, 2013. Tsarnaev, then 19, is accused of carrying out the attacks with 26-year-old Tamerlan, who was killed in a shootout and getaway attempt days later.

    Prosecutors contend the brothers - ethnic Chechens who arrived from Russia more than a decade ago - were driven by anger over U.S. wars in Muslim lands.

    A shaggy-haired, goateed Tsarnaev slouched in his seat and showed little reaction as the case unfolded. Apart from a question or two, the defense did not cross-examine the first few witnesses for the prosecution. Tsarnaev wore a black suit and white striped button down collared shirt. He was not in handcuffs, but security was extremely high, with several U.S. Marshals in the courtroom watching him closely.

    About two dozen victims, including Heather Abbott, who lost a leg in the attack, took up one entire side of the courtroom, listening somberly to details of the carnage. Several hung their heads and appeared to fight back tears.

    Three people were killed and more than 260 hurt when two pressure-cooker bombs exploded near the finish line seconds apart on April 15, 2013. Tsarnaev is accused of carrying out the attacks with his older brother Tamerlan, now dead.

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    Victims of the attack took up the entire left-hand side the courtroom, watching somberly as Weinreb described the carnage. Several hung their heads and appeared to fight back tears. Tsarnaev was on the other side of the court, with his back to them. The only time he really reacted during opening statements was when Weinreb described how he ran over and killed his brother with a car.

    Prosecutors showed the jury a gruesome video of the moments after the first bomb exploded. People could be seen lying in pools of blood, others bending over to help them.

    The footage was punctuated by screams, moans and the crying of a boy. The ground was strewn with ball bearings and chunks of metal litter, and smoke wafted over the victims.

    Members of the jury watched the video somberly. Several grimaced, especially at the sight of a gaping hole in a woman's leg.

    One of the first witnesses, Sean O'Hara, manager of a sporting goods store near where the bomb blew up, choked back tears as he described smelling burned hair and seeing wounded people streaming into the shop.

    He and other employees ripped clothing from the racks for use as tourniquets and rushed outside to help.

    "I heard a voice of someone saying, 'Stay with me, stay with me,'" O'Hara said, his voice cracking.

    The prosecutor also described how 8-year-old Martin Richard stood on a metal barrier with other children so he could get a good view of the runners.

    "The bomb tore large chunks of flesh out of Martin Richard," and the boy bled to death on the sidewalk as his mother looked on helplessly, Weinreb told the jury, with the youngster's parents in the courtroom.

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    Some of the most chilling testimony came from bombing survivor Rebekah Gregory, who described the injuries she and her then 5-year-old son Noah suffered in graphic detail. She was at the marathon to watch her boyfriend's mother run the race.

    "My bones were literally lying next to me on the sidewalk," Gregory said. "At that point I thought that was the day I would die."

    She said she tried to reach for her son, who was yelling, "Mommy!" but her arm was shredded and bleeding. As she scanned the crowd for her son, she said she saw victim Krystle Campbell, "and she was dead."

    Gregory said she had 17 surgeries on her left leg before it had to be amputated last November. Her son had a cut to his leg from shrapnel, and she still has shrapnel inside her. She now has a prosthetic leg.

    Marathon bombing survivors Sydney Corcoran and Colton Kilgore also testified.

    Corcoran, 19, said she and her parents were there to watch her aunt run.

    "We weren't even there for 10 minutes, and then everything went up in smoke," she said. "I remember feeling half of my foot was gone. I tried to put pressure on it and I started to limp."

    She said she passed out, and when she came to, men around her were putting tourniquets on her thigh. "I remember a man putting his forehead to mine, telling me I was going to be OK and I just needed to hold on... I remember thinking, 'This is it. I'm doing to die. I'm not going to make it.' I felt like I was going to sleep."

    Kilgore said he was there to see his mother-in-law run the marathon.

    "I was blown through the air," he said. "I remember seeing faces and bodies blown through the air. There was just screaming."

    He said he shot one photo just as the bomb went off, and then hit record on his camera to shoot video of the aftermath. He said the blast perforated his eardrum, and he was unable to hear from one ear for a month.

    Because of the wealth of evidence against the younger brother - including a video of him leaving a backpack at the scene, and incriminating graffiti scrawled on the boat where he was captured - legal experts have said all along that there is little chance of escaping conviction.

    Instead, they said, Tsarnaev's lawyers will concentrate on saving him from a death sentence during the penalty phase of the case by arguing that Tamerlan was the driving force in the plot and that Dzhokhar was manipulated or coerced into taking part.

    Tamerlan Tsarnaev has been implicated in the grisly 2011 slayings near Boston of three men. Their throats were slit, and marijuana was scattered on their bodies.

    Clarke, in an opening statement that took less than 20 minutes, called the bombings "senseless, horribly misguided acts." But she asked the jurors to "hold your hearts and minds open" until the penalty phase, when the panel will decide whether Tsarnaev should be executed or get life in prison.

    She held up two enlarged photos - one showing the two brothers years before the bombings, the other showing them carrying the backpacks containing the explosives - and asked the jury to contemplate: "What took Dzhokhar Tsarnaev from this ... to this?"

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    Survivors of the Boston Marathon bombings arrived at court Wednesday morning for the first day in the trial of suspect Dzhokhar Tsarnaev
    (Published Wednesday, March 4, 2015)

    While the outcome of the guilt-or-innocence phase of the trial is now probably a foregone conclusion, that doesn't mean it is an empty exercise.

    Robert Bloom, a Boston College law professor and former prosecutor, said the defense will use this phase to build the case that Tsarnaev was a follower, not a mastermind.

    "They'll want to use every opportunity they can to show he was influenced by his brother," Bloom said. "Who bought the pressure cookers? Who bought the BBs? All of that."

    Prosecutors, for their part, will use this stage to get across the horror of the attack and prime the jury to come back with a death sentence later, Bloom said.

    Right up until the moment the jury filed into the courtroom, Tsarnaev's lawyers fought to have the trial moved out of Massachusetts, arguing that the emotional impact of the bombings ran too deep and too many people had personal connections to the case. But U.S. District Judge George O'Toole Jr. and a federal appeals court rejected the requests.

    The panel of 10 women and eight men was chosen Tuesday after two long months of jury selection, interrupted repeatedly by snowstorms and the requests to move the trial, which is expected to last three to four months.

    The case is the most closely watched terrorism trial in the U.S. since the Oklahoma City bombing case in the mid-1990s.

    Clarke has saved a string of high-profile clients from the death penalty, including Atlanta Olympics bomber Eric Rudolph; Unabomber Ted Kaczynski; and Jared Loughner, who killed six people and gravely wounded then-Rep. Gabrielle Giffords in a 2011 shooting in Tucson, Arizona.

    The defense did very little in the way of cross examination Wednesday as the government brought in its first six witnesses.

    Testimony is scheduled to resume Thursday at 9 a.m.

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