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Dzhokhar Tsarnaev Was Officially Found Guilty of the Boston Marathon Bombing

A guilty verdict was always expected, but now jurors will have to decide whether the 21-year-old should be executed.

by Allie Conti
Apr 8 2015, 6:27pm

Photo courtesy of the Federal Bureau of Investigation

On Wednesday, a a federal grand jury found 21-year-old Dzhokhar Tsarnaev guilty for carrying out the bombing of the Boston Marathon in April 2013.

The first phase of the trial, which began in March, has arguably mostly served to re-traumatize the city of Boston, even as the story of how two half-Chechen brothers perpetrated the bloodiest act of terrorism on US soil since 9/11 has captivated the country to the point that it's slated to be turned into a Hollywood blockbuster.

The 12 jurors met for seven hours Tuesday without reaching a verdict. They submitted questions to the judge—which were answered Wednesday—before reaching a unanimous conclusion. Tsarnaev was found guilty on all 30 counts, 17 of which carry the possibility of the death penalty.

Of course, a guilty verdict was expected from the very first day of the trial. In opening arguments, defense attorney Judy Clarke stunned the media and the courtroom by announcing: "It was him." From that point on, she tried to prove that Dzhokhar's older brother, Tamerlan—who died in a shootout with police—was a radicalized Svengali character and Dzhokhar merely his unwitting pawn. Meanwhile, government lawyers set out to prove that Tsarnaev had accessed jihadist material on his computer and was untroubled by the slaughter, even stopping by Whole Foods to purchase milk right after helping kill three people and injure 260 more.

Prosecutors forced 18 jurors, including six alternates, to focus on the carnage of the bombing. Some of them cried as they were reminded of victims like Martin Richards, an eight-year-old who died in the blast. People like Rebekah Gregory, who lost her leg in the attack, testified as well.

Meanwhile, the defense rested after calling only four witnesses to the stand.

The sentencing phase is where defense attorney Judy Clarke could turn heads. In the past, she's represented the Unabomber, Jared Lee Laughner, and one of the men behind 9/11. Amazingly, she's never had one of her clients get executed, even if they wanted to be martyred. (For his part, Dzhokhar has come across as less than concerned with what will happen to him throughout the course of the trial.)

The sentencing or penalty phase of the trial is slated to begin April 13. One of the main questions is whether Tsarnaev will testify on his own behalf. It's a tricky decision for his legal team, because if he comes off as unlikeable or crass, he's probably doomed. On the other hand, if he expresses remorse he might be spared. It's hard to say what kind of witness he would make, as he's never given an interview, and there aren't even cameras allowed in the courtroom.

"The US Government is killing our innocent civilians but most of you already know that," Tsarnaev scrawled inside a boat just before being captured in Watertown, Massachusetts. "As a [illegible] I can't stand to see such evil go unpunished. We Muslims are one body, you hurt one you hurt us all."

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