Tags: US | attacks | Boston | trial

Defense Launches Bid to Save Boston Bomber from Death

Monday, 27 April 2015 02:13 PM

Defense lawyers asked a jury Monday to sentence Boston bomber Dzhokhar Tsarnaev to life in America's "super-max" federal prison, portraying a lost teen controlled by a radical older brother.

"As awful as his crime was, life in prison faced with what he has done is a better choice for everyone," said lawyer David Bruck in his opening statement at the penalty phase of Tsarnaev's trial.

The 21-year-old former student was found guilty this month of carrying out the 2013 bombings that killed three people and wounded 264 in one of the deadliest attacks in the US since 9/11.

The immigrant of Chechen descent was convicted on all 30 counts related to the bombings, the murder of a police officer, a carjacking and a shootout while on the run in April 2013.

Bruck showed the Boston courtroom a picture of America's only federal "supermax" prison in the wilds of Colorado, where he said Tsarnaev would live out the remainder of his days in obscurity.

"You will punish him and protect society at the same time," Bruck said. There would be "no martyrdom" for the killer who claimed the attacks were to avenge US wars in Iraq and Afghanistan.

"He will be securely locked there, he will never be heard of again," Bruck told the court.

He stressed over and over the influence that 26-year-old Tamerlan waged over his younger brother, then 19. Tamerlan was shot dead by police while on the run after the bombings.

He was aggressive, "failed everything" and became radical under the influence of his mother Zubeidat Tsarnaeva who "turned to fundamentalist religion and made sure Tamerlan followed," Bruck said.

He was consumed with the idea of jihad, going to Russia in an effort to fight when Tsarnaev was a 17-year-old at high school and coming back to the United States six months later.

Speaking softly, the lawyer portrayed an itinerant family history and culture where authority stemmed from the father and older brother.

It was a "nomadic" life of "turmoil" moving from Kyrgyzstan to Dagestan, before they settled in the Boston region in 2002.

But the American dream "began to crumble," he said. Father Anzor fell sick. Zubeidat, never accepted by her husband's family, turned to fundamentalist religion, dressing in black and coaching Tamerlan.

Dzhokhar Tsarnaev "was the helpful kid," "a good kid," his lawyer said.

After their parents, suffering from psychological problems, moved back to Russia in 2012, Tamerlan became the only adult reference for his little brother, Bruck said.

He was "a lost teenager with very little motivation on his own, raised to take directions from adults" and when Tamerlan began to "go off the rails, he pulled his younger brother" with him.

One of the first witnesses, imam Loay Assaf narrated two incidents at a mosque in Boston's twin city of Cambridge in 2012 and 2013 when Tamerlan furiously chastised him for talking about Thanksgiving and Martin Luther King, saying they were not Islamic.

The defense is expected to take two weeks to make their case.

Tsarnaev, thin and pale, showed no emotion. Even during the most harrowing testimony, he has refused to look at his victims, many of whom have walked on prosthetic limbs to the witness box.

Tsarnaev's convictions leave the jury only two sentencing options: the death penalty or life without parole.

An opinion poll published in the Boston Globe newspaper Monday found that just 19 percent of residents in Massachusetts believe Tsarnaev should be put to death.

In Boston, the number fell to 15 percent with nearly 66 percent of city residents favoring a life sentence, the paper said.

Jurors have to agree unanimously on the death penalty, which applies to 17 of 30 counts on which he has been convicted.

If even one hesitates, Tsarnaev will spend the rest of his life behind bars.

If anyone can get Tsarnaev off the death penalty, experts believe it is lead defense attorney Judy Clarke, who is a tireless opponent of capital punishment.

Over the last 20 years she has saved some of America's most notorious killers from death: Susan Smith who drowned her two children; "Unabomber" serial murderer Theodore Kaczynski; Zacarias Moussaoui, convicted over the 9/11 attacks; Eric Rudolph, who bombed the 1996 Atlanta Olympics; and Jared Lee Loughner, who shot Representative Gabrielle Giffords in Arizona in 2011.


© AFP 2018

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Monday, 27 April 2015 02:13 PM
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