Terrorist or Brother's Tool? Closing Args in Boston Bombing Trial

By Casey C. Sullivan, Esq. on April 06, 2015 | Last updated on March 21, 2019

Lawyers in the Boston bombing trial presented their final arguments today, following weeks of testimony. Dzhokhar Tsarnaev faces 30 counts and a possible death sentence for his participation, alongside his deceased brother, in the twin bombings which killed three and left over 200 others wounded during the 2013 Boston Marathon.

In dueling narratives, prosecutors sought to portray Tsarnaev as a calculated jihadi who attacked the event to make a political point, while the defense characterized him as a young man under the influence of a brother who was much more to blame.

A Calculated Political Terrorist

Government prosecutors wrapped their 15 days of testimony around the narrative that the 21 year old Tsarnaev "wanted to punish the America." He was not, as the defense argues, under the influence of his dominating older brother, but an equal participant in "a coordinated attack to maximize the terror."

Prosecutors also sought to remind the jury of the terror inflicted. Jurors were shown photos of bloodstained victims, as well as two videos of the bombing. Assistant U.S. Attorney Aloke Chakravarty even approached Tsarnaev directly, shaking his finger at him in a confrontation that left Tsarnaev visibly shaken, according to USA Today. "He was making a statement," Chakravarty said. "An eye for an eye. You kill us. We kill you. That's what he read. That's what he said. And that's what he did."

Beholden to the Will of His Brother

The defense conceded long ago that Tsarnaev planted a bomb used in the attacks and there is little likelihood that he will not be convicted of many of the 30 counts against him. Their job, now, is to present Tsarnaev in the most sympathetic light in order to prevent him being sentenced to death when the penalty phase begins.

They began that process in their brief defense which highlighted the role that Tsarnaev's brother, Tamerlan, who died while the two fled police, played in the bombing. The defense continued that strategy today, arguing that Tamerlan assembled to bombs, bought their components, killed an MIT officer. They were not equal partners who can share joint responsibility for the bombing. According to Tsarnaev's lawyers, "If not for Tamerlan, none of this would have happened."

The jury will now decide just how many counts Tsarnaev is guilty of -- 17 of them carry the death penalty. Afterwards, the jury will have to decide whether Tsarnaev will be executed or face life in prison.

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