U.S. District Judge George O’Toole gave the jury instructions this morning for deliberations, after which both the defense and prosecution made their closing arguments in the penalty phase of the case.
Tsarnaev was convicted of 30 counts related to the deadly April 2013 bombing, 17 of which carried the potential for the death penalty. If the jury unanimously decides he deserves death for just one of those, he will receive the ultimate punishment, pending appeals. Otherwise, Tsarnaev will spend the rest of his life in a Supermax prison without the possibility of parole.
“The choice between these very serious alternatives is yours and yours alone to make,” O’Toole told jurors.
Speaking for the prosecution, Assistant U.S. Attorney Steven Mellin reminded jurors of the note Tsarnaev wrote in the dry-docked boat moments before he was captured, when Tsarnaev said he did not like “killing innocent” people but “in this case, it is allowed because America’s need to be punished.”
“Those are the words of a terrorist convinced that he has done the right thing,” said Mellin, who described Tsarnaev as the epitome of a terrorist. “There is no punishment other than death.”
Judy Clarke, Tsarnaev’s lead defense attorney, said in her closing that she doesn’t have an explanation for how Tsarnaev, a “good kid,” became involved in the deadly plot, but said he is not the worst of the worst -– and it’s those criminals for whom the death penalty is reserved.
“If his a life worth saving? Is there hope for him? Is this a life worth redemption?” she asked the jury.
Three people were killed, including an eight-year-old boy, when Dzhokhar Tsarnaev, and his brother Tamerlan, detonated twin bombs near the finish line of the Boston Marathon on April 15, 2013. Days later Tamerlan was killed in a shootout with police, but Dzhokhar was captured as he hid in a dry-docked boat in a Boston suburb.
During his trial, Dzhokhar Tsarnaev pleaded not guilty, but his defense said from the start he would not shirk responsibility for his role in the blasts –- only that he did it while under his older brother’s influence. Legal analysts at the time said the defense was designed to set up a similar defense in the death penalty phase of the trial in order to win Tsarnaev life in prison.
In a front page Op-Ed for the Boston Globe, the parents of Martin Richard, the eight-year-old killed in the blasts, argued for the government to drop the death penalty and give Tsarnaev life in prison “to end the anguish.”
“As long as the defendant is in the spotlight, we have no choice but to live a story told on his terms, not ours,” Bill and Denise Richard wrote. “The minute the defendant fades from our newspapers and TV screens is the minute we begin the process of rebuilding our lives and our family.”
Liz Norden, the mother of two men who each lost limbs in the blast, is in the courthouse today where she hopes the jury decides on death.
“I want to see him die for what he did to my boys,” Norden told ABC News recently.