A federal prosecutor has said that Dzokhar Tsarnaev, the surviving brother accused of bombing Boston's 2013 marathon, "wanted to terrorize this country." The defense argues his elder brother masterminded the attack.
Prosecutors opened proceedings in Boston on Monday, as closing arguments in the trial of Dzokhar Tsarnaev began. Tsarnaev is accused of a bomb attack that killed three and injured 264, and of fatally shooting a police officer when seeking to escape with his older brother.
Assistant US Attorney Aloke Chakravarty told jurors that the attacks were deliberate and extremist in nature, as the prosecution seeks the death penalty.
Opponents of the death penalty in Massachussetts, a state which does not execute prisoners, also went to court
"The defendant thought that his values were more important than the people around him. He wanted to awake the mujahedeen, the holy warriors," Chakravarty said. "He wanted to terrorize this country. He wanted to punish America for what it was doing to his people."
Sentence in question more than verdict
Given that the defense doesn't contest Tsarnaev's involvement in the attack, a guilty verdict is considered highly likely. Seventeen of the charges leveled against him can potentially carry the death penalty, which the defense is seeking to avoid - life imprisonment without the possibility of parole being the only available alternative.
Tsarnaev, who wore a black jacket and open-collared shirt in court on Monday, is a Muslim American of Chechen descent, like his elder brother, Tamerlan. Tamerlan Tsarnaev died early on April 19, following a shootout with police in which Dzokhar sped off in a car, running his brother over in the process. He was later found hiding in a boat in a private garden, severely wounded, having scrawled a note seeming to blame US military actions in Muslim countries for him conducting the bombing.
Dzokhar's defense team had previously argued that their client was motivated more out of a sense of subservience to his elder brother than of ideological anger. Defense attorney Judith Clarke opened the trial bluntly a month ago by saying "it was him" who carried out the bombing; she continued in a similar vein on Monday.
'Tamerlan led and Dzokhar followed'
"There is no excuse. No one is trying to make one. Planting bombs at the Boston Marathon one year and 51 weeks ago was a senseless act," Clarke said. "Dzokhar Tsarnaev stands ready by your verdict to be held responsible for his actions."
She continued, however, to argue that the evidence pointed to Tamerlan as the ringleader.
"Tamerlan built the bombs, Tamerlan murdered officer Collier [editor's note: campus police officer at the Massachussetts Institute of Technology]; Tamerlan led and Dzokhar followed," Clarke said.
After the closing arguments, the jury will retire to consider its verdict. After that, the jury would be asked during the penalty phase to weigh the merits of the death sentence versus life imprisonment.
msh/rc (AFP, AP, Reuters)