BOSTON — Dzhokhar Tsarnaev was convicted on all charges Wednesday in the Boston Marathon bombing by a jury that will now decide whether the 21-year-old should be executed or shown mercy for what his lawyer says was a crime masterminded by his big brother.
The former college student folded his arms, fidgeted and looked down at the defense table in federal court as he listened to the word "guilty" recited on all 30 counts against him, including conspiracy and deadly use of a weapon of mass destruction. Seventeen of those counts are punishable by death.
The verdict, reached after a day and a half of deliberations, was practically a foregone conclusion, given his lawyer's startling admission at the trial's outset that Tsarnaev carried out the terror attack with his now-dead older brother, Tamerlan.
The defense strategy is to try to save Tsarnaev's life in the upcoming penalty phase by arguing he fell under the evil influence of his brother.
DAY OF THE BOMBING
The two shrapnel-packed pressure-cooker bombs that exploded near the finish line on April 15, 2013, killed three spectators and wounded more than 260 other people, turning the traditionally celebratory home stretch of the world-famous race into a scene of carnage and putting the city on edge for days.
Tsarnaev was found responsible not only for those deaths but for the killing of a Massachusetts Institute of Technology police officer who was gunned down days later.
"It's not a happy occasion, but it's something," said Karen Brassard, who suffered shrapnel wounds on her legs. "One more step behind us."
She said Tsarnaev appeared "arrogant" and uninterested during the trial, and she wasn't surprised when she saw no remorse on his face as the verdicts were read. She refused to say whether she believes he deserves the death penalty, but she rejected the defense argument that he was simply following his brother's lead.
"He was in college. He was a grown man who knew what the consequences would be," Brassard said. "I believe he was 'all in' with the brother."
Tsarnaev's lawyers left the courthouse without commenting.
In the penalty phase, which could begin as early as Monday, the jury will hear evidence on whether he should get the death penalty or spend the rest of his life in prison.
During the first stage of the trial, defense attorney Judy Clarke argued that Tsarnaev was led astray by his radicalized brother, telling the jury: "If not for Tamerlan, it would not have happened." She repeatedly referred to Dzhokhar — then 19 — as a "kid" and a "teenager."
Prosecutors, however, portrayed the brothers — ethnic Chechens who moved to the United States from Russia more than a decade ago — as full partners in a brutal and coldblooded plan to punish the U.S. for its wars in Muslim countries. Jihadist writings, lectures and videos were found on both their computers, though the defense argued that Tamerlan downloaded the material and sent it to his brother.
Tamerlan, 26, died when he was shot by police and run over by his brother during a chaotic getaway attempt days after the bombing.
The government called 92 witnesses over 15 days, painting a hellish scene of torn-off limbs, blood-spattered pavement, ghastly screams and the smell of sulfur and burned hair.
Survivors gave heartbreaking testimony about losing legs in the blasts or watching people die. The father of 8-year-old Martin Richard described making the agonizing decision to leave his mortally wounded son so he could get help for their 6-year-old daughter, whose leg had been blown off.
In the courtroom Wednesday, Denise Richard, the boy's mother, wiped tears from her face after the verdict. The boy's father, Bill Richard, embraced one of the prosecutors.
In Russia, Tsarnaev's father, Anzor Tsarnaev, told The Associated Press in recent days that he would have no comment.
The others killed in the bombing were Lingzi Lu, a 23-year-old Chinese graduate student at Boston University, and Krystle Campbell, a 29-year-old restaurant manager. MIT Officer Sean Collier was shot to death at close range days later.
In a statement, Collier's family welcomed the verdict and added: "The strength and bond that everyone has shown during these last two years proves that if these terrorists thought that they would somehow strike fear in the hearts of people, they monumentally failed."
Some of the most damning evidence at the trial included video showing Tsarnaev planting a backpack containing one of the bombs near where the 8-year-old boy was standing, and incriminating statements scrawled inside the dry-docked boat where a wounded and bleeding Tsarnaev was captured days after the tragedy.
"Stop killing our innocent people and we will stop," he wrote.
Tsarnaev's lawyers barely cross-examined the government's witnesses and called just four people to the stand over less than two days, all in an effort to portray the older brother as the guiding force in the plot.
According to defense testimony, phone records showed Dzhokhar was at the University of Massachusetts-Dartmouth while his brother was buying bomb components, including pressure cookers and BBs. Tamerlan's computer showed search terms such as "detonator" and "transmitter and receiver," while Dzhokhar was largely spending time on Facebook and other social media sites. And Tamerlan's fingerprints, but not Dzhokhar's, were found on pieces of the two bombs.
Clarke is one of the nation's foremost death-penalty specialists and an expert at keeping her clients off death row. She saved the lives of Unabomber Ted Kaczynski and Susan Smith, the South Carolina woman who drowned her two children in a lake in 1994.
Tsarnaev's lawyers tried repeatedly to get the trial moved out of Boston because of the heavy publicity and the widespread trauma. But opposition to capital punishment is strong in Massachusetts, which abolished its state death penalty in 1984, and some polls have suggested a majority of Bostonians do not want to see Tsarnaev sentenced to die.
The 12-member jury must be unanimous for Tsarnaev to receive a death sentenced; otherwise the penalty will be life behind bars.
During the penalty phase, Tsarnaev's lawyers will present so-called mitigating evidence they hope will save his life. That could include evidence about his family, his relationship with his brother, and his childhood in the former Soviet republic of Kyrgyzstan and later in the volatile Dagestan region of Russia.
Prosecutors will present so-called aggravating factors in support of the death penalty, including the killing of a child and the targeting of the marathon because of the potential for maximum bloodshed.
Liz Norden, the mother of two sons who lost parts of their legs in the bombing, said death would be the appropriate punishment: "I don't understand how anyone could have done what he did."
SHOULD HE DIE?
The guilty verdicts against Dzhokhar Tsarnaev in the Boston Marathon bombings were not unexpected.
The big question is what happens next.
Rep. Elise Stefanik has been visiting the 21st Congressional District. Her communication director, Tom Flanagin, was asked after the verdict Wednesday what she wants to see happen to the convicted terrorist.
"Congresswoman Stefanik thinks Dzhokhar Tsarnaev should be punished to the fullest extent of the law for the heinous crimes he has committed and hopes that the resolution of this trial can bring some manner of peace to the victims and families of those affected by the Boston bombing," he told the Press-Republican.
Press-Republican Facebook readers were asked whether they thought Tsarnaev should get the death penalty. The majority of those who responded said they did.
Here are some of the responses to the question: Should Dzhokhar Tsarnaev get the death penalty?:
James Thompson: "The sooner the better."
Sandy Danforth: "Absolutely!!!!! I'd be happy to assist!"
Travis J Miller: "Yes he should get the death penalty, he killed and injured alot of innocent people..."
Jeanne Marie: "Nope. That will only martyr him. Send him to jail for life so he can stew on what he did and remember it every single day."
John Schifano: "I'd rather he rot in jail than get a speedy out. Let him wait to find out that there are no virgins in his future!"
Connie M Barcomb: "YES, why should we pay for his (lodging) for the rest of his life !!!!!!"
Ann Jason Whalen: "Yes he should, the sooner the better!"
John Cech: "Yes. And don't wait 30 years to do it!!"
Kim Mason: "He should live his life in pain and with regret however long it is."
Join the discussion at Facebook.com/pressrepublican.