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article imageUS bomber a 'terrorist' who deserves to die: prosecution

By Jennie Matthew (AFP)     May 13, 2015 in World

Boston bomber Dzhokhar Tsarnaev is a remorseless terrorist who deserves to die for killing innocent Americans, prosecutors told jurors Wednesday as they prepared to deliberate whether or not he should be sentenced to death.

The defense hit back that he was a "lost kid," from a rootless and troubled family, ignored by his parents, manipulated by his radicalized older brother and who had expressed genuine remorse to a Catholic nun.

The 21-year-old former student was found guilty last month of carrying out the April 15, 2013 bombings that killed three people and wounded 264 in one of the deadliest attacks in the United States since 9/11.

The immigrant of Chechen descent was convicted on all 30 counts related to the bombings at the Boston Marathon, and the subsequent murder of a police officer, a carjacking and a shootout while on the run.

A subsequent penalty trial, which wrapped up Wednesday with closing statements, leaves the jury with only two sentencing options under federal law: the death penalty or life without parole.

"It is your job to determine a just sentence. The only sentence that will serve justice in this case is the sentence of death," assistant US attorney Steve Mellin told jurors as Tsarnaev sat motionless.

Factfile on the 2013 Boston marathon attack and convicted bomber Dzhokhar Tsarnaev
Factfile on the 2013 Boston marathon attack and convicted bomber Dzhokhar Tsarnaev

Mellin quoted from a message that Tsarnaev wrote to justify the attacks to avenge America's wars in Iraq and Afghanistan before his arrest.

"No remorse, no apology. Those are the words of a terrorist convinced he has done the right thing. He felt justified in killing, maiming and seriously injuring innocent men, women and children," Mellin said.

The prosecutor recalled harrowing testimony from the loved ones of those who were killed, saying they will never recover from their loss.

He reminded jurors of the "excruciating" pain that Tsarnaev inflicted, repeating the word over and over, showing the packed court photographs of the victims happy in the past and of their brutal injuries.

He said the government's aggravating factors, which would point the jury towards the death penalty, far outweigh 21 mitigating factors advanced by the defense in a bid to secure him life without parole.

"Frankly it's not even close," he said, rubbishing any suggestion that life inside America's most maximum security jail, in the wilds of Colorado, would be worse than death.

Tsarnaev would have a windowed-cell, be allowed separate showers, to exercise, study for a college degree, even write a book, and get visits and talk on the phone to family, and exchange unlimited letters, he said.

-'No excuses' -

Demonstrators against the death penalty stand outside the US District Court in Boston  Massachusetts...
Demonstrators against the death penalty stand outside the US District Court in Boston, Massachusetts on April 27, 2015
Brigitte Dusseau, AFP

Judy Clarke, one of America's top anti-death penalty lawyers, took more than an hour to paint a portrait of an impressionable youth manipulated by his 26-year-old older brother, the real mastermind of the attacks.

"I'm not asking you to excuse him. There are no excuses," she said.

"It's a mighty big task for all of us, to understand how the unimaginable occurred," she said, narrating his rootless family life, beginning with his parents' marriage -- opposed by relatives on both sides.

She said there was no simple or clear answer as to why "this good kid," who spent his free time in school working with disabled kids carried out the "heinous crime."

"I can tell you this and we've shown you that Jahar Tsarnaev was not the worst of the worst, and that's what the death penalty is reserved for," said Clarke, using his Americanized name.

Tsarnaev's older brother Tamerlan was killed in a shootout with police, leaving his brother to face punishment alone.

A man places stones beside a memorial near the Boston Marathon finish line on Boylston Street  comme...
A man places stones beside a memorial near the Boston Marathon finish line on Boylston Street, commemorating the two-year anniversary of the 2013 Boston bombings, on April 15, 2015
Tim Bradbury, Getty/AFP/File

"Jahar would never have done this but for Tamerlan. The tragedy would never have occurred but for Tamerlan," she said.

Mitigating factors include Tsarnaev's young age, 19 at the time, his brother's domineering influence, his father's mental illness, his parents return to Russia in 2012 and testimony that he is remorseful.

Earlier on Wednesday the judge delivered nearly an hour and a half of lengthy instructions to the same jury, who convicted Tsarnaev in April.

"The choice between these very serious alternatives is yours and yours alone to make," Judge George O'Toole said.

Seventeen of the convictions carry the death penalty, and O'Toole told the jury, who will complete a detailed 24-page verdict form, they must approach the sentencing decision "separately as to each count."

If they select the death penalty for just one count, that will be imposed regardless of whether they chose life imprisonment for others, he said.

Any death penalty sentence must be unanimous.

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