Prosecutors Say Terrorism ‘Sang’ to Tsarnaev

     BOSTON (CN) – When court convened Tuesday to determine whether Boston Marathon bomber Dzhokhar Tsarnaev gets sentenced to death or life imprisonment, the city had just marked two years since the attacks.
     Prosecution, pushing for the death penalty, unveiled a never-seen-before photo of Tsarneav before his first arraignment on July 10, 2013, in a federal court holding cell.
     A middle finger, blurred and out of focus, is pressed close to a surveillance camera. Tsarneav is in the background, his countenance like stone, and a bright orange, government-issued jumpsuit popping out of the gray background.
     Jurors returned a guilty verdict for the 21-year-old on April 8, after little more than a day of deliberation, on all 30 counts of criminal acts for Tsarnaev’s admitted role in largest terrorist attack in the United States since Sept. 11, 2001, as well as the murder of a police officer, a carjacking and a shootout that followed.
     Tsarnaev and his brother, Tamerlan, who died in the shootout, are responsible for four deaths and more than 260 injuries, 17 of which involved amputations.
     Assistant U.S. attorney Nadine Pellegrini began her opening statement with three large canvases covered in black resting on easels behind her.
     “The deaths committed by Dzhokhar Tsarnaev were deliberate and cruel,” she said before pulling off the black covers to the two outermost canvases, revealing the pictures of four people Tsarnaev killed.
     One canvas pictured Lingzi Lu, 23, and Martin Richard, 8. Krystal Campbell, 29, and Officer Sean Collier, 27, were on the other.
     “They died in the cruelest way imaginable,” Pellegrini said. “Pieces of them were embedded in the concrete buildings across the street.”
     “They had time to feel pain,” she continued. “They had time to be scared and frighten. They did not have time to say good bye.”
     With the faces of the victims smiling behind her, Pellegrini then moved on to their killer. “The question of guilt has been answered, and the question of sentencing remains,” she said. “Every death was intended. There was no mistake or accidents in any one of these.”
     She described Tsarnaev as “simply callous and indifferent to life.”
     “It is his character that makes the death penalty just.” Pellegrini said. “Dzhokhar Tsarnaev was and is unrepentant, uncaring and untouched by the havoc and sorrow he created.”
     She addressed Tsarneav’s only defense: being lost under the influence of his older brother, Tamerlan. “Tamerlan was an easy target while he lived,” Pellegrini said, referring to his death at the hands of his younger brother, who ran him over with the SUV they stole. “He’s certainly an easy target while he’s dead.”
     Pellegrini described how Tsarneav acted as his own person, listing all the places he was alone: walking down Boylston street to the Boston Marathon’s finish line, standing behind the Richard family where he left his bomb, getting the gun they used to kill Officer Collier, taking money out of the ATM from the account of the man whose car they stole, escaping police after running his brother over, writing a manifesto on the inside of the boat where he was captured, and inside a holding cell months after the bombing where he made an obscene, defiant hand gesture to a surveillance camera.
     She revealed a picture of this last image of Tsarneav being his own person on the remaining canvas behind her.
     “Does it really matter who came first in the long line of radicalization?” she asked the jury. “The origins and the lineage of terrorism do not matter. What matters is his beliefs. Terrorism sang to him. Nothing was forced upon him. He simply shared.”
     Pellegrini closed with a quote from a legendary Bostonian and transcendentalist, whose core beliefs include the inherent goodness of people, Ralph Waldo Emerson: “The only person you are destined to become is the person you decide to be.”
     Tsarnaev’s defense team did not give an opening statement.
     Outside the courthouse, a dozen or so death-penalty protestors lined up holding signs and handing out pamphlets. One couple held opposite sides of a large green banner that asked in neat, handwritten white lettering, “Why do we kill people who kill people to show that killing people is wrong?”
     Last week, the parents of one of the victims published a public plea in the Boston Globe, asking prosecutors to take the death penalty off the table.
     “We understand all too well the heinousness and brutality of the crimes committed,” Denise and Bill Richards wrote. “We were there. We lived it. The defendant murdered our 8-year-old son, maimed our 7-year-old daughter, and stole part of our soul. We know that the government has its reasons for seeking the death penalty, but the continued pursuit of that punishment could bring years of appeals and prolong reliving the most painful day of our lives.”
     The bombing blinded Denise in her left eye and left Bill partially deaf. Their daughter, Jane, lost a leg.
     Tsarnaev’s penalty phase is expected to last about a month.
     The last people put to death in Massachusetts were two gangsters, Philip Bellino and Edward Gertson, on May 9, 1947, for the murder of Robert Williams, over an illegal dice game. They were executed via the electric chair.

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