The jury in the trial of Dzhokhar Tsarnaev came to a verdict today, sentencing the 21-year-old Boston Marathon bomber to death. They returned their decision late Friday afternoon, after over 14 hours of deliberations. While the jury delivered capital punishment verdicts in the deaths of the three killed at the Marathon, they didn’t return one for the murder of MIT police officer Sean Collier, who was killed days later.
As the clerk read through the jury’s findings on the aggravating and mitigating factors, the crowd of court officials, reporters, and victims of the attack, including the family of 8-year-old victim Martin Richard, waited for the sentence to be announced. Members of Tsarnaev’s defense team followed along with the jury form, appearing anxious as the clerk reported unanimous findings on aggravating factor after aggravating factor with only two members of the jury agreeing with the mitigating factor that indicated he demonstrated remorse and only three voting that he was swayed by his brother Tamerlan to participate.
Tsarnaev himself appeared calm, keeping his hands folded in front of him and occasionally glancing down at his copy of the jury form. He betrayed little emotion when his verdict was read, as his attorney David Bruck requested a polling of the jury and each one voiced their agreement.
“You should be justly proud of your service in this case,” Judge George O’Toole said, during remarks in which he praised them for their months-long contribution and warned them about the likely media onslaught that awaited them, recommending they take their time and compose their thoughts. He advised them to think about their fellow jurors before revealing too much about their deliberations. “You’ve traveled together and eaten together; it may not be too much to say that you’ve developed some friendships,” he said. He praised Tsarnaev for conducting himself with “composure and propriety” inside and out of the courtroom.
Tsarnaev will next be seen in court this summer for his formal sentencing hearing. As the court stood for the jury, he stood calmly, placing his hands inside his pockets and then out before the marshals came to take him away.
Shortly after, as crowds gathered outside the Moakley Courthouse, U.S. Attorney Carmen Ortiz and Boston Police Chief William Evans stood with the prosecution team near the Boston Harbor, police patrol boats behind them and helicopters circling overhead, to address the press.
“Truly, the victims and the survivors are the voices of Boston Strong and the living proof that there was much love in this city on the afternoon of April 15th two years ago,” Ortiz said. “The trial of this case has showcased an important American ideal: that even the worst of the worst deserve a fair trial and due process of law. Today the jury has spoken and Dzhokhar Tsarnaev will pay with his life for his crimes. Make no mistake, the defendant claimed to be attacking on behalf of all Muslims. This was not a religious crime and it certainly does not reflect true Muslim beliefs. It was a political crime designed to intimidate designed to intimidate and to coerce the United States.”
“Today is not a day for celebration. It is not a day for political or moral debate. It is a day for reflection and healing. Our thoughts should now turn away from the Tsarnaev brothers for good and turn to those who will live in our memories forever: Krystle Marie Campbell, Martin Richard, Sean Collier, and Lingzi Lu,” said Ortiz.
Ortiz was asked about the decision to pursue the death penalty, a choice that’s been questioned by members of the Boston legal community. “It was a long, careful process in which there was a lot of input at different levels of my office and the Department of Justice and when the Attorney General approved it based on the nature of the crimes in this case and the degree of harm we then continued on that path,” she explained.
Asked about what comes next for Tsarnaev, Ortiz referred to the yet to be scheduled sentencing hearing, where victims will be able to make impact statements before the court, after which it will be determined which prison, like Colorado’s ADX or Terre Haute in Indiana, he will be sent to. As the debates regarding lethal injection continue to intensify, the legal battle for Tsarnaev’s life, which is likely to include rounds of appeals, is far from over. It’s a fact that even Ortiz refused to deny, acknowledging, “It’s a long process.”