Guilty verdict in Boston bombing trial may bolster chance of death sentence

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    After a day-and-a-half of deliberations, a federal jury convicted Dzhokhar Tsarnaev on all 30 counts he was facing for the Boston Marathon bombing.

    A jury of seven women and five men convicted him on multiple charges that could be punishable by death, including deadly use of a weapon of mass destruction. The next phase of the trial will decide whether Tsarnaev should be sentenced to death. The bombs that Dzhokhar, then 19, set off with his now-dead older brother, Tamerlan, killed three people and wounded more than 260 others almost exactly two years ago.

    After the verdict, Karen Brassard, who was hurt in the attacks along with her family, spoke for a group of survivors and family members.

  • KAREN BRASSARD, Boston Bombing Survivor:

    It is not something that you will ever be over. You will feel it forever. There will always be something that brings it back to the forefront.

    But we are all going to move on with our lives and we're all going to get back to some sense of normalcy, hopefully, when this is all done. So closure, I guess I don't think so, only because it is forever a part of our life.


    We turn once again to Adam Reilly, who has been covering the trial for public television station WGBH. He was in the court today when the verdict came in.

    Welcome back, Adam.


    Hi. Thanks.


    Looking at the 30 counts that were handed in today, were there any surprises? Were there any of these counts that anyone had expected perhaps he might be found not guilty on?


    I don't know if there were any counts where we expected a not guilty finding, but what the defense had really pushed on was, first off, the idea that Dzhokhar Tsarnaev played a key role in the murder of Sean Collier, the MIT police officer who was fatally shot three days after the bombings.

    And then there was also implicit pushback against the idea that Dzhokhar was instrumental in the creation of the pipe bomb that his brother — pardon me — the pressure cooker bomb placed by his brother Tamerlan that killed a young woman named Krystle Campbell.

    The defense throughout has said that Tamerlan was really the bomb-maker in chief and that Dzhokhar followed his lead. So, those were two areas where, even if we didn't expect a not guilty finding, I think the defense was hoping for one. But, as you said, they got absolutely nothing.


    And still there was no daylight at all in this. In the end, it was a unanimous, clear verdict, which then perhaps speaks to what happens next.


    You really have to wonder if it doesn't speak to what comes next.

    It wasn't just the guilty findings on all 30 counts, but for a number of these, there were what in court they call aggravating factors. For example, if Dzhokhar Tsarnaev was found guilty of conspiracy to use a weapon of mass destruction, did that conspiracy then result in the deaths of Martin Richard and Lingzi Lu and Krystle Campbell and Sean Collier?

    Some of those aggravating factors were duplicative. The deaths of those four individuals came up on a few occasions. But there were more than 60 of these aggravating factors and, again, in every single case the jury said, yes, these crimes did result in these outcomes, all of which I think are going to bolster the government's case for the death penalty when we move into the next phase of the trial.

    But what we're going to hear, which we haven't heard yet in sort of a full and focused way as they wanted, is the defense making their case that again Dzhokhar was pushed into this by Tamerlan. Judge George O'Toole said early in this trial that they could not focus on that argument, which is really all they have, until the sentencing phase. They would have liked to be talking about this every day up until this point. Now they will get their chance.


    We saw — you saw Dzhokhar Tsarnaev in the courtroom today. What was his demeanor? How did he take it?


    His demeanor has been fascinating to all of us covering the trial through this. He has been laconic from the beginning. A lot of people have said he looks cocky when he enters court. He moves in sort of a lope. He is frequently rubbing his goatee, checking his hair to make sure it's OK.

    What struck me today about his demeanor as these guilty findings were read was that, on two occasions, he crossed his arms tightly around himself and sort of stood there hunched. That is not body language that I have seen before from Dzhokhar Tsarnaev. I'm not an expert in body language, but to me it had almost a defensive connotation, a feeling of feeling threatened or vulnerable.

    So again that was something new. No outbursts. No weeping that we saw. I was looking at the back of his head. But those gestures or those stances were striking.


    And how about for the family members and survivors who were in the courtroom?


    They were very quiet, very stoic. The ones who I looked at, and you almost feel uneasy watching them because they have been through so much and then they have had to relive it publicly — but I was looking at the parents of Martin Richard, the 8-year-old boy who was standing right in front of the bomb that Dzhokhar Tsarnaev placed and who was killed.

    His body was just ravaged by the bomb. We heard about it in horrific detail a few days ago. I was watching them as these findings were coming in. His father, Martin Richard's father was just staring straight ahead. His lips were sort of pursed. His mother was watching the findings being read.

    They looked as composed as they possibly could be, having gone through everything they have gone through. But there wasn't — there were no loud noises in the courtroom as the findings came in. There were no shouts of exaltation. There have been sympathizers, friends, family, people who think that Dzhokhar Tsarnaev is getting a raw deal from the legal system.

    They have been in court on occasion and we didn't hear from them either. It was very, very quiet.


    What is the challenge now for Judy Clarke, Dzhokhar Tsarnaev's lawyer, moving forward on the death penalty phase? And does that start right away?


    That will not start right away.

    I had actually and a number of other people had expected it to begin as soon as we had a verdict. In fact, the judge said today it's not going to begin tomorrow, it's not going to begin Friday. It may begin Monday. He says it's going to move — he will move expeditiously, but he didn't commit to a Monday start.

    I think that the huge challenge for Judy Clarke — and it may be an insurmountable one — is to try in some way to make the jury feel even a shred of sympathy or empathy for her client. She actually made a reference in her closing arguments to all the people whose lives were indelibly changed by the marathon bombings, and said including Dzhokhar Tsarnaev's.

    That is — it's asking a lot, I think, of people to feel that kind of empathy toward him, but she's going to give it a try. It will be very, very difficult.


    And it only takes one of those jurors to decide that they don't want to give him the death penalty.


    You're exactly right. Yes. Yes. Just one. Just one. And we will see.

    We don't know what evidence they can come up with. I think it remains to be seen whether Dzhokhar Tsarnaev will take the stand in his own defense. A lot of people have assumed that there is no chance of that happening, but I think this emphatic set of guilty findings today by the jury might lead Tsarnaev's team to think if he wants to plead for mercy in some way and express contrition, that may be their only shot at sparing his life.


    All right.

    Adam Reilly of WGBH in Boston, thank you.


    Thank you.

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