The defense attorney for accused Boston bomber Dzhokhar Tsarnaev says jurors should consider that the defendant was under his older brother's influence. Nearly two years after the attacks, Tsarnaev's trial has begun.
Defense attorney Judy Clarke said her 21-year-old client, Dzhokhar Tsarnaev, bore responsibility for attacks he committed on April 15, 2013, killing three people and injuring 264: "It was him."
On Wednesday, Clarke said Dzhokhar's brother, Tamerlan, 26 at the time, had acted as the terror attack's prime mover. The defense strategy, which did not include a move to change Tsarnaev's not-guilty plea, appeared aimed at sparing him from the death penalty.
"Tsarnaev came to his role by a very different path than suggested by the prosecution," Clarke said.
Kyrgyzstan-born, ethnically Chechen and a US citizen, Tsarnaev faces charges for the bombing at the marathon and fatally shooting a police officer in the ensuing manhunt for him and his brother - during which he accidentally ran over and killed Tamerlan - but he denies more than 30 counts of using a weapon of mass destruction.
Prosecutors have alleged that Tamerlan was acting on Dzhokhar's orders, but in her opening remarks on Wednesday, Clarke appeared to attempt to turn their case upside down. "It was Tamerlan Tsarnaev who self-radicalized," she said.
District Court Judge George O'Toole will limit mitigating evidence during the trial's first phase. The judge said he would not admit evidence relating to whether Tsarnaev "was less culpable than others."
'In his heart'
On Wednesday, prosecutor William Weinreb argued that Tsarnaev had "had murder in his heart" as he walked among spectators just before the bombing. He said that the younger brother had become radicalized and made an effort at "earning his place in paradise" by killing US citizens in a bid to convince the government to stop targeting terrorists abroad.
"He placed his bomb right next to a row of children," Weinreb said on Wednesday. "He acted like he didn't have a care in the world," the prosecutor added.
Prosecution witness Shane O'Hara, manager of a sporting goods store near the bombing, broke down on the stand. "What has haunted me was that I had to make decisions: who needed help first, who needed more, who was more injured than others," O'Hara said Wednesday as he struggled to hold back tears.
The trial could last four months. Jury selection took nearly two months.
mkg/lw (Reuters, AFP, dpa, AP)