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Attorneys for both sides in the Boston Bombing trial have presented their closing arguments, and the case has gone to the jury for a verdict. Gwen Ifill talks to Adam Reilly of WGBH, who has been reporting on the trial throughout, about the dramatic testimonies, courtroom tactics and what happens after the verdict comes in.
There were closing arguments from both sides in the Boston bombing trial today, and the jury will start deliberations tomorrow morning.
For an update on the proceedings, I am joined by Adam Reilly of public television station WGBH in Boston. He has been reporting on the trial throughout and was in the courtroom today.
Adam, thank you for joining us.
ADAM REILLY, WGBH-TV:
Hi, Gwen. My pleasure.
Thirty counts, we're talking about, 17 of them eligible for the death penalty. What are the closing arguments for the prosecution?
Essentially, both the prosecution and the defense tried to do the same thing today they have done throughout the trial.
The defense conceded early on that Dzhokhar Tsarnaev did it, that he was involved in the Boston Marathon bombing. So, the whole trial has been about arguing over whether he was essentially an equal conspirator or kind of a junior partner.
So the government again today, as they have throughout this case, tried to drove home the equal conspirator argument. The defense came back, arguing that he was pushed into this by his deceased older brother, Tamerlan, who of course is no longer around to offer his version of events.
And, as the defense put it today, they said that if Tamerlan had — if it were not for Tamerlan, this would never have happened, that Dzhokhar essentially was secondary.
I was surprised or at least interested by the number of the witnesses that the prosecution brought, 92 witnesses, the defense only four witnesses. Why that difference?
Oh, I'm sorry to interrupt you.
I think, in part, that's because the prosecution really wanted to drive home the horror of what happened that day. And there were a lot of people who were traumatically affected by the bombings. So, for example, we heard from the father of Martin Richard, the 8-year-old boy who lost his life when a bomb that Dzhokhar had placed directly behind him went off.
We saw video, very chilling video, of Dzhokhar standing right behind the Richard family planting his bomb. But the discrepancy is also because the judge early on said that the defense could not focus on its contention that effectively Dzhokhar was coerced into this or pushed or led into this by Tamerlan until the sentencing phase of the trial.
So they called a few people who were able to indirectly bolster the case they wanted to make. They called a fingerprint expert who works for the FBI in Virginia who said that a number of Tamerlan's fingerprints were found on bomb-making materials obtained by the government, but very few fingerprints belonging to Dzhokhar.
But we're going to hear a lot more from the kind of witnesses they want to call in the next stage, after the verdict comes in, just because that's the parameters that the judge established.
So explain to us what the process is now. We're talking about — we're talking right now just about guilt or innocence. He has already admitted guilt, and it moves immediately to a death penalty phase?
We will wait for a verdict now. And I have to say, a lot of people, myself included, thought a verdict could come in very quickly. I think it will come in relatively quickly. But the judge's instructions alone to the jury alone today took about an hour-and-a-quarter.
Even if you are inclined to think he did this, even with the assistance of the defense saying that he did this, the counts are complex, and there's a lot of legal minutiae to wade through.
In addition, the jurors haven't been able to talk to anyone about all this horrific testimony they have seen. So I think it's reasonable to expect some amount of simple venting in the jury room once they start deliberating.
When the verdict finally comes in, my understanding is that we will move almost immediately to the sentencing phase. If we get a verdict, say, at 2:00 p.m. on Wednesday, maybe we won't start the sentencing phase until the following day, but we're planning at this point to move right on.
It must have been pretty emotional in that courtroom over these few weeks, especially with so many of the victims and the victims' relatives present.
Oh, I'm sorry.
It has been intensely emotional. And I haven't been there for all of it. I have been splitting coverage duties with a couple of my colleagues at WGBH. But I was there for the government's closing arguments, in which they had the medical examiners who examined the three victims killed during the marathon bombings themselves, Martin Richard, Krystle Campbell, and Lingzi Lu.
They had them talk about the magnitude of injuries they sustained. The autopsy photos were not shown in open court, but they were shown to the jurors. We did see in open court the garments that Martin Richard, the 8-year-old boy who was killed, was wearing when he died.
And that — I'm a parent. And I think, whether you're a parent or not, that kind of thing is extremely difficult to see. You know, his either pants or shorts which were shred horrifically were held up. And the expert testifying then said that because the blast was so intense, they couldn't tell if they were short pants or long pants.
And all of this was happening as Martin Richard's father and mother were sitting just a few feet away, so a lot of intense emotion. And, as I indicated earlier, it has got to be really, really hard for the jurors to take all this stuff in and then go home and not be able to share it with known.
A terrible time recounting a terrible day.
Adam Reilly, thank you very much.
Thank you, Gwen.
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