Dzhokhar Tsarnaev, his face a blank, stood with his head bowed and his hands clasped as the guilty verdicts tolled one after another for what seemed like an eternity: Guilty of using weapons of mass destruction, guilty of bombing a place of public use, guilty of conspiracy and aiding and abetting. Guilty, guilty, guilty: The word was spoken 32 times.
Yes, the jury said, Tsarnaev caused the deaths of Krystle Campbell, Martin Richard, Lingzi Lu and Sean Collier. Yes, it was murder. And so, the word “yes” was spoken 63 times, each time making Tsarnaev eligible for the death penalty.
From start to finish, it took 26 minutes for the jury to announce its verdict in the Boston Marathon bombing trial: Tsarnaev didn’t skate on a single charge. He now stands guilty of all 30 counts, 17 of which could send him to death row.
If hearing the verdicts seemed overwhelming, that paled in comparison to seeing and hearing evidence behind them: awful images and sounds. The jury saw bombs explode and tear people apart. They saw streets splashed crimson with blood and littered with severed limbs and body parts. They heard the cries of the injured, and witnesses told them how people tended to the dying and gravely injured, unaware of their own injuries as they tied belts around the mangled limbs of friends and strangers alike.
They heard a prosecutor explain why this was done: Tsarnaev was punishing Americans and sending a message to the holy warriors of radical Islam to rise up.
And they saw surveillance photos of Tsarnaev, who prosecutors described as a callous killer, strolling through the aisles of Whole Foods to buy milk and smiling as he stopped by his college gym shortly after the deadly bombing.
Wednesday’s verdict was a major step in the trial, but the toughest legal battles may be yet to come.
The trial will resume, possibly early next week, for a second phase to determine Tsarnaev’s punishment.
The jury’s next assignment: deciding whether the man responsible for the worst act of terrorism on U.S. soil since September 11, 2001, should pay with his life.
It took the jury of seven women and five men 11½ hours of deliberations to reach their verdict. Tsarnaev, 21, didn’t look at jurors as their decisions were read.
Survivors of the bombing said they were gratified by Wednesday’s decision, but found no joy in it.
“Obviously we are grateful for the outcome today,” bombing survivor Karen Brassard said after the verdict was announced. “It’s not a happy occasion, but it’s something that we can put one more step behind us.”
Jeff Bauman, who lost his legs in the bombing, said he was relieved.
“Today’s verdict will never replace the lives that were lost and so dramatically changed,” he said, “but it is a relief, and one step closer to closure.”
Federal prosecutors are now focusing on the trial’s upcoming penalty phase, said Carmen Ortiz, the U.S. Attorney for the District of Massachusetts. “We are gratified by the jury’s verdict and thank everyone who played a role in the trial for their hard work,” Oritz said, declining to comment further.
In the next phase of the trial, jurors will hear evidence of what makes Tsarnaev’s crimes so heinous he should be executed. The defense will try to soften his actions by painting him in a more sympathetic light.
Tsarnaev’s attorney, Judy Clarke, is one of the nation’s foremost experts on keeping clients off death row.
She has successfully fought for the lives of Ted Kaczynski, aka the Unabomber, and Jared Loughner, the gunman who killed a judge and wounded former U.S. Rep. Gabrielle Giffords.
For weeks, Clarke has been laying the groundwork for her argument to persuade the jury to spare Tsarnaev’s life.
Although there had been doubts that Tsarnaev could receive a fair trial in Boston, the case moved quickly and smoothly once testimony began on March 5. Some 96 witnesses testified over 15 court days: 92 for the prosecution and four for the defense.
The defense all but conceded guilt during this part of the trial, choosing instead to focus its efforts on persuading the jury during the penalty phase to spare Tsarnaev’s life.
The low-key strategy played in stark contrast to the emotionally wrenching case put on by prosecutors, who displayed videos and photographs of the dead, the dying and the maimed along Boylston Street.
Jurors saw graphic scenes of a street awash in blood and severed limbs and the dazed, traumatized expressions on people’s faces. They heard screams and moans. It looked like a war zone, several witnesses said.
Other witnesses described how deafening and disorienting it was to have a bomb go off nearby. Some survivors said they could see people screaming but could not hear them. They felt like they were underwater as the surreal events unfolded around them. Several said they felt nauseated by the “vile” stench of gunpowder and burning hair and flesh.
The jury heard a young woman, now in college, describe how it felt to nearly die; Sydney Corcoran said she felt cold, but peaceful as the blood drained from her body.
As they viewed a video shot by spectator Colton Kilgore, jurors could hear the cries of a 5-year-old boy. They saw his mother’s bones protruding from her leg and shredded hand as she reached for him. Others in the background were scrambling to apply tourniquets.
“My bones were laying next to me on the sidewalk,” said Rebekah Gregory. “That’s the day I thought I was going to die.”
They heard the urgent voices of spectators suddenly turned into first responders. Tourniquets were quickly fashioned from belts and running clothes brought by the armload from Marathon Sports, a store near the first bomb site along Boylston Street.
Witnesses described the agonizing decisions they made about whom they could help and who was beyond saving. Shane O’Hara, the manager of Marathon Sports, said the day still haunts him.
“All you heard were sirens, cries and screams,” he said. “The thing that haunts me is making decisions — who needed help first, who needed more, who was more injured than the other one. I felt it wasn’t my role to make those decisions, but you have to do that.”
O’Toole told jurors he was sorry they had to view such gruesome images, but urged them to view them clinically, as evidence. He said they were necessary to show what happened.
Prosecutors said Tamerlan and Dzhokhar Tsarnaev steeped themselves in writings and lectures of top al Qaeda leaders who urged young men to avenge injustice to Muslims by waging holy war against the enemies of Islam, including the United States.
The militant literature promised paradise and other awards to any warrior who died as a martyr for jihad.
The plan to bomb the marathon was hatched a year earlier, prosecutors alleged. The brothers chose the event because “all eyes would be on Boston that day,” Assistant U.S. Attorney Aloke Chakravarty said.
“He chose a day where there would be civilians on the sidewalks. And he and his brother targeted those civilians — men, women and children — because he wanted to make a point. He wanted to terrorize this country. He wanted to punish America for what it was doing to his people.”
The brothers took their war from an 800-square-foot apartment in Cambridge to Boston’s Boylston Street shortly before 3 p.m. on Monday, April 15, 2013.
“That day they felt like they were soldiers,” Chakravary said. “They were the mujahedeen.”
The videos showed the brothers carrying the bombs in backpacks and moving through the crowd near the marathon finish line. It was, the prosecutor said, “a coordinated attack.”
Tamerlan Tsarnaev set off the first bomb near Marathon Sports, according to testimony. The 6-quart pressure cooker contained gunpowder, nails and BBs and was sealed with duct tape.
It took the life of Krystle Campbell, a 29-year-old restaurant manager, and the legs of several other people.
The second pressure cooker bomb, carried in by Dzhokhar Tsarnaev, went off 12 seconds later in front of the Forum restaurant. That bomb killed two people — Martin Richard, 8, and Lingzi Lu, 23, a graduate student from China.
Surveillance video shows Dzhokhar Tsarnaev, wearing a turned-around white ball cap, lingering for four minutes by a tree. He slips his backpack off his shoulder. In front of him, a row of children, including Martin Richard, stands behind a metal barricade.
“These children weren’t innocent to him,” Chakravarty told jurors. “They were American. He knew what the bag was designed to do.”
Martin was torn apart by the blast, and his sister, Jane, lost a leg. Their father, Bill Richard, testified that he immediately knew his son would not survived his injuries, and focused on getting help for Jane.
“I saw a little boy who had his body severely damaged by an explosion,” Richard testified. He paused, adding, “This is difficult. I just knew from what I saw that there was no chance. The color of his skin, and so on. I knew in my head that I needed to act quickly or we might not only lose Martin, we might lose Jane, too.”
Lu flailed her arms and screamed before bleeding to death in the street. Her leg was shredded from her ankle to her hip.
Defense: He followed his brother’s lead
The defense disputes little about what happened and instead focused on why it happened. Lead defense attorney Judy Clarke all but conceded that Tsarnaev is guilty, and has focused instead on persuading jurors to spare him from the death penalty in the trial’s next phase.
Clarke disputed the prosecutors’ arguments that their client was bent on becoming a holy warrior, although she acknowledged the horror the bombs caused and said her client’s actions were “inexcusable.”
“For this destruction, suffering and profound loss, there is no excuse,” she said. “No one is trying to make one. Planting bombs at the Boston Marathon one year and 51 weeks ago was a senseless act.”
She asked jurors to keep their minds open to what is to come — a case based heavily on the Tsarnaev family’s troubled history and the control and influence Tamerlan Tsarnaev held over his younger brother. Tamerlan was the mastermind of the bomb plot, Clarke said. He bought the pressure cookers and built the bombs. He researched the marathon as a possible event to attack. He shot and killed Collier at MIT.
Jahar merely followed his lead, she said.
“It was Tamerlan,” Clarke said, over and over in her closing argument to the jury.
Tamerlan downloaded the jihadist material urging young men to wage holy war against the infidels while Jahar spent most of his time on Facebook, Clarke said.
“He was a kid doing kid things.”
But prosecutors insisted the brothers were “partners in crime,” working together to punish Americans for what they perceived as crimes against Muslims.
“He wanted to terrorize this country,” said Chakravartay. “He wanted to punish America for what it was doing to his people. And that’s what he did.”
“Tamerlan Tsarnaev didn’t turn his brother into a murderer,” said another prosecutor, Assistant U.S. Attorney William Weinreb. “If you are capable of such hate, such callousness that you can murder and maim 20 people and then drive to Whole Foods and buy some milk, can you really blame it on your brother?”
Prosecutors used computer searches to show that both brothers were steeped in jihadist writings and lectures. They acted calmly and with purpose, believing they were right, Chakravarty said.
He also told jurors they had to look no futher than Tsarnaev’s manifesto, written with a pencil on the side of a boat where he hid during the manhunt. It showed, more than anything else, how he had adopted the beliefs of the jihadists as his own.
“In that boat, with helicopters overhead and sirens blaring, he chose to write something to the American people,” the prosecutor said, adding he probably believed he was spending his final moments on Earth.
“In that boat, when the helicopters were overhead, the sirens were blaring, there were police canvassing, looking for him, he was all alone, and in his voice he chose to write something to the American people,” Chakravarty said.
He wrote in the first person. He was an “I,” not a “we.”
The prosecutor displayed a photograph of the writing on the sides of a boat pocked by bullets and streaked with Tsarnaev’s blood, and read the manifesto in its entirety.
“I am jealous of my brother who has received the reward of (paradise.) … I do not mourn because his soul is very much alive. God has a plan for each person. Mine was to hide in this boat and shed some light on our actions.”
He asked God to make him a martyr so he could “be among all the righteous people in the highest levels of heaven.”
Then he lashed out against America:
“The U.S. government is killing our innocent civilians, but most of you already know that. As a Muslim, I can’t stand to see such evil go unpunished. We Muslims are one body. You hurt one, you hurt us all.”
He wrote that the Muslim nation is beginning to rise, along with the soldiers of the holy war. “Know that you are fighting men who look into the barrel of your gun and see heaven. Now, how can you compete with that? We are promised victory and we will surely get it. Now I don’t like killing innocent people. It is forbidden in Islam. But due to (bullet hole), it is allowed.”
He was not yet finished. He carved another message into a wooden slat inside the boat: “Stop killing our people and we will stop.”
Chakravarty said Tsarnaev wanted to be “a terrorist hero.” He was making a statement. He was proud of the choices he made.
And, while he hid in that boat and the police closed in on him, the prosecutor said, Tsarnaev “was negotiating the terms of death with the people of America.”