- The Washington Times - Wednesday, April 8, 2015

Dzhokhar Tsarnaev was found guilty Wednesday of all 30 federal counts associated with the Boston Marathon bombings, and now a federal jury must determine whether he should be executed for detonating two shrapnel-packed pressure-cooker bombs near the marathon finish line.

A jury of seven women and five men returned the guilty verdict in a Boston courtroom as Tsarnaev, 21, kept his head bowed and hands clasped in front of him, showing no emotion.

The jury deliberated over the fate of the former college student for almost 12 hours, though the guilty verdict was largely a formality because the defense admitted his guilt.

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“He did it,” defense attorney Judy Clarke said in opening statements. She made it clear that the goal of the defense was to spare Tsarnaev from execution.

Of the 30 counts against Tsarnaev, 17 are capital offenses.

The next phase of the trial requires the jury to review evidence that will determine whether Tsarnaev gets the death penalty or spends the rest of his life in prison. Those deliberations could start as soon as Monday.

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In the meantime, defense attorneys likely will be scrambling to find character witnesses to help them make their case that Tsarnaev was a wayward youth led astray by the plotting of his more sinister brother, Tamerlan, said Daveed Gartenstein-Ross, a senior fellow for the Foundation for Defense of Democracies and adjunct assistant professor at Georgetown University’s security studies program.

“Life isn’t, unfortunately, a choose-your-own-adventure book where you can flip back and see what would have happened if you make a different choice,” said Mr. Gartenstein-Ross.

Portraying Tsarnaev as a sympathetic character, he said, may not resonate with jurors who have seen the bloody pictures and damage he inflicted by setting off two bombs.

The Tsarnaev brothers, Chechen Muslims who immigrated to the U.S. from a war-torn region of Russia, planted the pressure-cooker bombs near the finish line of the Boston Marathon amid hundreds of participants and onlookers on April 15, 2013, killing three people and injuring more than 260.

The government called 92 witnesses over 15 days, painting a hellish scene of severed 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 the agonizing decision to leave his mortally wounded son so he could get help for his 6-year-old daughter, whose leg had been blown off.

It was “an atrocious terrorist attack designed to inflict maximum bodily harm on innocent people,” Mr. Gartenstein-Ross said.

Top lawmakers on the House Committee on Homeland Security trumpeted the outcome of Tsarnaev’s trial. Rep. Michael T. McCaul, Texas Republican and committee chairman, said the swift verdict “closes a tragic chapter for the city of Boston” and the United States.

“As we move forward, this verdict is another step toward closure for our country, for the families of those killed and wounded that day, and for the courageous first responders who rushed into the danger zone and saved many lives,” Mr. McCaul said. “The brave men and women protecting this country from attacks like the marathon bombing work tirelessly day and night to keep America safe. It is crucial to fully analyze the connections and motives of these terrorists to better understand the process of Islamic radicalization and ultimately prevent an attack like this from ever happening again.”

The three killed in the grisly bombings were Martin Richard, 8; Lu Lingzi, 23, a Chinese graduate student at Boston University; and Krystle Campbell, a 29-year-old restaurant manager.

During several days of flight after the bombings, they fatally shot Sean Collier, a police officer at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, and stole a vehicle. The driver in the carjacking escaped at a gas station.

Tamerlan Tsarnaev was killed during a shootout, and Dzhokhar Tsarnaev was captured hiding in a boat in a Watertown resident’s backyard after an intense door-to-door search.

Karen Brassard, one of the hundreds injured during the bombings, told reporters after the jury read aloud its verdict that she followed the trial as it dragged out over the span of four months because she “needed to experience it from beginning to end.”

Mrs. Brassard, who suffered injuries from the bomb blast alongside her husband, Ron, and daughter, Krystara, said the events of that tragic day still resonate in her mind.

“It’s not something that you’ll ever be over,” she said. “You’ll feel it forever.”

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,” Mrs. Brassard said. “I believe he was ‘all in’ with the brother.”

Mrs. Brassard stopped short of saying that the court system had brought to justice the man who attacked her family.

“I don’t know what justice is,” she told reporters. “I am grateful to have this man off the street.”

The family of Officer Collier said in a statement issued on the heels of the verdict that they welcomed the decisions of the jury.

“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,” the statement said.

The bombs exploded on Boylston Street, along the final stretch of the Boston Marathon, where people had clustered together to cheer on their loved ones in an iconic Massachusetts holiday: Patriots Day.

“The explosive devices were placed near the metal barriers where hundreds of spectators were watching runners approach the finish line,” court documents state. “Each explosion killed at least one person, maimed, burned and wounded scores of others, and damaged public and private property, including the streets, sidewalk, barriers, and property owned by people and businesses in the locations where the explosions occurred.”

⦁ This article is based in part on wire service reports.

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