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'America's worst nightmare' deserves death, trial hears

22 april 2015, 11:44
0

 Boston bomber Dzhokhar Tsarnaev is "America's worst nightmare" and deserves to die for perpetrating one of the bloodiest attacks on US soil since 9/11, his trial heard Tuesday, AFP reports.

The court was shown a never before seen photograph of Tsarnaev, dressed in an orange prison jumpsuit flipping his middle finger at a surveillance camera in a cell before his first arraignment.

"This is Dzhokhar Tsarnaev, unconcerned, unrepentant and unchanged," said Assistant US Attorney Nadine Pellegrini in her opening statement at the sentencing phase of his trial.

The former student was convicted earlier this month on all 30 counts related to the April 15, 2013 bombings, the murder of a police officer, a carjacking and a shootout.

The 21-year-old of part Chechen descent who moved to America with his family aged eight took US nationality a year before the deadly 2013 attacks, which killed three and wounded 264 more.

The sentencing phase of his trial, which could take up to four weeks, will determine whether he is sentenced to death -- which must be a unanimous jury decision -- or to life imprisonment.

"The death penalty is appropriate because Dzhokhar Tsarnaev planned and plotted to kill," Pellegrini told jurors.

She displayed large color photographs of the victims, looking happy and smiling, before the attacks took their lives and plunged their loved ones into grief.

The "unbearable, indescribable, inexcusable, senseless" attacks, she said, proved Tsarnaev and his twisted, extremist ideology were "destined to become America's worst nightmare."

   'Belief in terrorism' 

 "He shared his beliefs in terrorism with his brother," 26-year-old Tamerlan, who was killed by police while on the run, and "the people in the crowd were his enemies," she said.

Dzhokhar Tsarnaev, who while on the run said the attacks were revenge for the US wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, sat in court wearing a black blazer and refusing to look at Pellegrini or the witnesses.

The federal courtroom was packed for the first day of the penalty phase, which began with instructions from the judge to the jury, the same 12-member panel that convicted Tsarnaev on April 8.

"Obviously, it is impossible for me to overstate the importance of the decision," Judge George O'Toole told jurors.

Outside the building, a dozen protesters demonstrated against the death penalty, holding up banners, one of which read: "Why do we kill people who kill people to show that killing people is wrong?"

Jurors were selected in part for their openness to imposing the death penalty, controversial in a state that has executed no one since 1947 and where Catholic bishops oppose capital punishment.

A poll carried out by CNN found that just over half of Americans, 53 percent, said Tsarnaev should get the death penalty. Forty-five percent said he should spend the rest of his life behind bars.

If just one juror accepts there were mitigating circumstances to Tsarnaev's actions, then he will be sentenced to life in prison.

On Tuesday, victims testified about the terrible pain they endured, while William Campbell had tears in his eyes as he spoke of his daughter Krystle, who was killed in the bombings.

   'Miss her everyday' 

 "She always made me happy," he said. "She called me everyday."

The court saw photographs of Krystle as a baby, of her graduation, in a swimming pool as a child.

"I miss her hug every day. She never left the house without giving me a hug," her father said.

Defense attorneys will follow the prosecution in calling witnesses, possibly sometime next week.

It is unclear whether Tsarnaev, who has been a silent if fidgety presence in court, or any of his relatives will take the stand.

Prosecutors will try to convince the 12 jurors that there are enough aggravating factors -- including premeditation, the number of victims and a lack of remorse -- to warrant capital punishment.

The defense will argue their client should be sent to prison, portraying him as a confused 19-year-old, frightened of his more radical, older brother.

Chief defense lawyer Judy Clarke is one of America's leading experts on capital punishment and has saved a string of high-profile clients from death row.

Prominent survivors have publicly opposed the death penalty for Tsarnaev, who was a teenage student at the time.

Since the federal death penalty was reinstated in 1988, only 79 people have been sentenced to die on federal offenses and only three have been executed -- in 2001 and 2003.


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